September has been designated as “Healthy Aging Month.” Some of us automatically think, “oh, I need to begin exercising, eating healthier, lose weight.” We think heart, lungs and knees. We seldom stop to think, “What can I do to be sure I maintain my vision?” We assume that glasses can fix our vision. However, people who have experienced vision loss due to macular degeneration, diabetes, infections, etc. would disagree.
In the United States, Americans over 65 – one out of every six has a visual impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. Among older Americans, visual impairment is one of the most significant contributors to loss of independence and is associated with a higher prevalence of chronic health conditions, falls, injuries, depression and social isolation. Some of the conditions causing visual impairment are diabetes, macular degeneration, high blood pressure (stroke), glaucoma and many more.
Here’s a list of seven tips for seniors to follow to help protect their vision:
- Get an Eye Exam. It is important for everyone to have annual eye exams, but everyadult age 65 and over should get a medical eye exam every year. Regular eye exams are crucial in detecting changes in vision which may be a symptom of a treatable eye disease or condition.
- Know the Symptoms of Vision Loss. Know the signs of vision loss which include difficulty reading, writing, watching TV, driving and recognizing faces and objects. Sometimes, as our vision changes gradually, we think “oh, we are just getting older and this is what happens.” Others may notice signs of vision loss such as bumping into or knocking over objects, stepping hesitantly and squinting or tilting the head when trying to focus. These items are not “normal” aging occurrences and should be addressed.
- Make Eye-Healthy Food Choices. A diet low in fat and rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains benefits the entire body, including the eyes. Studies show that foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin are good for eye health.
- Quit Smoking. Avoiding smoking and second-hand smoke are two of the best investments you can make for long-term eye health. Smoking increases risk for eye diseases like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
- Maintain normal blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels. High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose (sugar) levels all increase the risk of vision loss from an eye disease. Diabetic retinopathy is a well-known eye disease for patients with uncontrolled high blood sugar. Keeping these under control will not only help one’s eyes but also overall health.
- Get Regular Physical Activity. Regular exercise benefits one’s heart, waistline and energy level, and it can also do the eyes a world of good! Many eye diseases are linked to other health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol levels.
- Wear Sunglasses. Exposure to ultra violet (UV) light raises the risks of eye diseases, including cataract, growths on the eye and cancer. Always wear sunglasses with 100 percent UV protection and a hat while enjoying time outdoors.