September is Healthy Aging Month: Ways to Keep your Aging Eyes Healthy
One in six Americans age 65 and older have a vision impairment that cannot be corrected with glasses or contact lenses. To bring attention to taking care of our eyes as we age, the American Academy of Ophthalmology celebrates Healthy Aging Month.
While it is a relatively small structure, the eye is a complex organ. Several facets need to be in working order for us to be able to see properly...the tissues, muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in the eye area AND in our brains all work together to contribute to our ability to see the world around us. Natural aging changes, including decreased flexibility of the lens of the eye, clouding of the lens, age- or disease-related retinal changes, and decreased tear production, can make it increasingly difficult to see clearly as we age.
Here are a few ways you can keep your eyes healthy despite the natural aging process:
1. Eat a healthy, balanced diet that includes fruits and vegetables, especially deep yellow and green leafy vegetables. Eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, tuna, and halibut can also help your eyes.
2. Reduce your risk for diabetes by maintaining a healthy weight. Having diabetes puts you at higher risk of getting diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma.
3. Exercise regularly. Exercise may help to prevent or control diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol which can lead to some vision problems.
4. Be wary of the sun. The sun's harmful rays can damage your eyes and raise your risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Protect your eyes by using sunglasses that block out 99 to 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation.
5. Prevent eye injuries and wear protective eye wear when doing repairs or projects around your home.
6. Avoid smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing age-related eye diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts and can damage the optic nerve.
7. Know your family medical history. Some eye diseases can be passed down from family members. Knowing your history can help determine if you are at a higher risk for developing certain eye diseases.
8. Give your eyes a rest. If you spend a lot of time using a computer, reading, or performing tasks that need focused vision like sewing, you may forget to blink your eyes regularly. To reduce this strain on your eyes, try the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
9. Get your eyes checked regularly. By seeing your optometrist regularly, they can help identify both normal and abnormal changes to your vision, and provide a referral to an ophthalmologist if needed.