September is Healthy Aging Month- created to celebrate the positive aspects of growing older and provide tips for improving overall well-being!
The population of adults age 65 and older was 54.1 million in 2019 and is projected to swell to 85.7 million by 2050, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The risk of eye disease increases as we get older. By age 65, one in six Americans has a vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses.
Luckily, a healthy lifestyle and annual eye exam can identify common eye conditions such as dry eye, age-related macular degeneration (loss of central vision), cataracts (cloudy lenses), diabetic retinopathy (blood vessel damage), glaucoma (optic nerve head damage), and many more. These diseases often do not have early warning signs; however, they can be detected with a dilated eye exam.
Here is a handy list of lifestyle tips to improve eye health:
Know your family's eye health history to take steps to reduce your risk.
Use sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UVA/UVB sun rays. Price is not directly related to protection- just look for a tag or sticker that says 100% UV protection.
Eat a healthy, balanced diet of green leafy vegetables and colorful fruit, which are high in antioxidants such as lutein and zeaxanthin. Dietary intake of omega-3 fatty acid DHA has anti-inflammatory properties that are recommended for dry eyes and retinal health; these can be found in fish, flaxseed, and walnuts.
Avoid the use of tobacco products which increases the risk of AMD, cataracts, and retinal vascular disease. Cigarette smoke causes damage to the eye by increasing harmful free-radicals and limiting the amount of oxygen that reaches the choroid, a vascular-rich tissue layer that supplies blood to the retina.
Exercise regularly promotes healthy blood vessels that the eye relies on, and reduces the risk of complications from diabetic retinopathy. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercises such as walking, swimming, cycling, or active gardening.
Go to your primary care provider appointments to control blood pressure and diabetes which can lead to vision complications.
Did you know that up to 270 systemic conditions can have ocular manifestations, according to the AOA? Since your eye doctor is able to visualize the tiny blood vessels in the back of the eye, a dilated eye exam is an important preventative care service.
Remember, it is never too late to take control of your eye health by getting an annual eye exam!
Abdel-Aal el-SM, Akhtar H, Zaheer K, Ali R. Dietary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin carotenoids and their role in eye health. Nutrients. 2013;5(4):1169-1185. Published 2013 Apr 9. doi:10.3390/nu5041169
Velilla S, García-Medina JJ, García-Layana A, et al. Smoking and age-related macular degeneration: review and update. J Ophthalmol. 2013;2013:895147. doi:10.1155/2013/895147