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Worried About Your Eyesight?

Lutein is a carotenoid that can help to protect the eyes. Find out if you should take it, and what foods are good sources.

If you or someone you know is getting on in years, you may want to consider supplementing your diet with lutein. Lutein and another carotenoid, zeaxanthin, form the yellow pigment of the retina and absorb blue light, which is a potentially harmful component of sunlight. There is very good evidence that the lutein in food helps protect against cataracts and macular degeneration, which are common age-related eye disorders. The best thing you can do for your eyes this month, and in the future, is to make sure your diet contains plenty of lutein-rich produce, including:

Fruits - mangoes, watermelon and tomatoes are good sources of lutein

Vegetables - corn, sweet potatoes, carrots, peas, squash and dark leafy greens (such as kale, collards and bok choy) provide lutein

In addition to the foods listed above, you can get zeaxanthin from orange bell peppers, oranges, and honeydew melon. I recommend eating five to seven servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day. If you are unable to get adequate lutein through your diet, you may want to consider a vision-supportive supplement; talk with your doctor.

3 Ways to Prevent Blindness

Keeping your vision as clear as possible is vital – but an unhealthy lifestyle and diet can be detrimental to your eyesight. Try adding these three simple suggestions to your daily routine to help prevent macular degeneration and other vision concerns. 

The leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 60 - affecting more than 13 million Americans - is macular degeneration. The health of the macula (an oval spot in the center of the retina that's essential for central vision) depends on a very rich blood supply, and anything that interferes with circulation can cause damage to the macula and decrease its ability to function.

Unhealthy diet and lifestyle choices can reduce the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to the eye, eventually leading to the death of cells in the retina and macula. To help prevent macular degeneration and other vision problems, consider the following: 

1. Stop smoking. The nicotine in tobacco smoke can decrease blood supply by causing a narrowing of the blood vessels and a thickening of the blood. You should also avoid secondhand smoke.

2.  Eat a diet low in sugar, flour and oxidized oils (such as soybean oils used in processed foods and deep-fat frying). These can contribute to plaque build-up along blood vessel walls, including those supplying the macula, which impedes blood flow.

3. Get enough antioxidants, such as vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein. These antioxidant compounds may help prevent plaque from sticking to the blood vessel walls, lessening the risk of damage to the tissue.

Youthful Looking Eyes in 6 Steps

If eye wrinkles, puffiness or dark circles are bothering you, skip the invasive procedures and try these effective, natural techniques for firmer, brighter eyes!

  1. Don't resort to invasive procedures for youthful-looking eyes - try these simple steps:
  2. Wear sunscreen. Ultraviolet rays can weaken collagen, causing premature wrinkling and sagging.
  3. Invest in quality sunglasses. Look for ones that block out UVA and UVB rays.
  4. Don't smoke. It affects the blood supply that keeps skin tissue looking healthy and supple.
  5. Use a moisturizer for hydration.
  6. Consider a vitamin A cream, which can help prevent wrinkles and minimize ones you already have.
  7. Cool down inflammation around your eyes. Puffy eyes can be addressed with cucumber slices, cold spoons or chilled teabags.

 

8 Ways to Prevent Pink Eye

A case of pink eye can be painful, unsightly and frustrating. Luckily some fairly straightforward preventive steps can minimize your risks.

Yesterday's Daily Tip discussed the symptoms of pink eye and who is most vulnerable. Today, we list simple ways to prevent this highly contagious infection of the eyelid and eyeball:

  1. Wash your hands well, often, and always before and after applying antibiotic drops.
  2. Don't touch your eyes with your hands.
  3. If being treated with antibiotic drops, never let the antibiotic bottle touch the affected eye.
  4. Use a new towel and washcloth every day.
  5. Change pillowcases often.
  6. Throw away any eye makeup used while infected, including mascara.
  7. Don't share cosmetics, washcloths and eye products with others.
  8. Keep infected children out of school or daycare until a few days after treatment begins or the infection clears up.

While viral pink eye will resolve on its own in a few weeks without treatment, it can be difficult to distinguish between viral and bacterial conjunctivitis.

Consequently, many doctors prescribe antibiotic eye drops to anyone with pink eye - the antibiotics won't be effective against viral infections, but they may help prevent a secondary bacterial infection. With bacterial conjunctivitis, the antibiotic eye drops usually cause symptoms to clear up within a few days. Pink eye caused by allergies is usually treated with allergy medications and eye drops that relieve itchy eyes.

Worried You Have Pink Eye?

If your eyes are red, itchy or crusty, you may have pink eye. Find out some common symptoms of pink eye, as well as what can cause it.

If you have itchy, red eyes that seem worse than is typically experienced with seasonal allergies, you may have pink eye. Also known as infectious conjunctivitis, pink eye is an inflammation of the membrane (called the conjunctiva) that lines the eyelid and eyeball.

Pink eye can be due to an allergic reaction to pollen, dust or other foreign material in the eye, such as contact lens solution; a bacterial infection, which is more common among children than adults; or viruses, particularly those associated with colds or a sore throat, as well as other childhood illnesses. All types of viral or bacterial pink eye are highly contagious.

The symptoms of pink eye can affect one or both eyes and include:

  • Redness
  • Itchiness
  • A feeling or grittiness or having something stuck in the eye
  • Tearing and discharge (yellow color is often associated with a bacterial cause)
  • Crusts that form on the eyelids overnight

 

Young children are the most likely to get pink eye, as their rambunctious activity in small spaces provides the perfect circumstances for passing it around. Other people at higher risk for developing pink eye include those with allergies to airborne pollen and those who wear contact lenses, particularly extended-wear brands, as both these groups tend to touch and rub their eyes more frequently.

If you or your children experience any of the symptoms above, visit your physician for an evaluation and diagnosis. To learn how to treat and prevent pink eye, read Monday's blog post.

Statins and Cataracts

New research suggests that statin drugs prescribed to lower cholesterol may increase the risk of cataracts. Canadian researchers used data from the British Columbia Ministry of Health databases from 2000 to 2007, and from the U.S. database IMS LifeLink from 2001 to 2011. In total, the investigators reviewed data from more than 1.3 million individuals (including controls). They reported a 27 percent increased risk of developing cataracts requiring surgery in the British Columbia patients. They also reported a seven percent increased risk in the U.S. patients. Earlier studies had noted an increased risk of cataracts among patients taking statins, but those results had been judged "inconsistent and controversial." The data and results of the new investigation were held to be statistically significant. The researchers wrote that no specific statins were found to pose a larger risk than others, and suggested that the cataract risk was a "class effect" of the drugs. They concluded that "because the relative risk is low and because cataract surgery is both effective and well tolerated, this association should be disclosed but not be considered a deterrent to use of statins when warranted" to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Surprising News About Your Eyes

The more educated you are, the greater the odds that you’re nearsighted. German researchers came to this interesting conclusion after checking the eyes of 4,685 men and women ages 33 to 74. They found nearsightedness (myopia) among 60.3 percent of those who graduated from the 13-year German secondary school system compared with 41.6 percent of those who spent only 10 years in school, 27.2 percent of those who graduated after nine years, and 26.9 of those who didn’t graduate. They also reported that the percentage of nearsighted people was higher among university grads in general than among graduates of vocational schools or those who had no professional training. The investigators concluded that the effect of education on nearsightedness was much greater than that predicted by genetics, and hypothesized that environmental factors play a much bigger role in myopia than previously thought. They reported that the strong association between nearsightedness and education remained even after they adjusted for age, gender and variation in DNA sequences associated with myopia.

Want To Age Gracefully?
It's not about the lines on the face - it's about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Begin today - start your 14-day free trial of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging now, and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Alireza Mirshahi et al, “Myopia and Level of Education.” Ophthalmology, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ophtha.2014.04.017

What Supplements Do You Take? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed nutrients and minerals necessary for vision and eye health: What Nutrients Can Help Protect Vision? Check out the article and let us know what supplements you take as part of your daily routine.

How Lifestyle Can Affect Your Vision

Being physically active and having an occasional alcoholic drink both seem to reduce the risk of developing vision problems as you age. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin noted that visual impairment in the U.S. population is projected to increase by 70 percent between the year 2000 and 2020. They attributed most of these projected changes to the expansion of the aging population and the prevalence of age-related eye diseases. The investigators looked at the relationships between the incidence of visual impairment and smoking, drinking alcohol and staying physically active in an ongoing study of nearly 5000 adults aged 43 to 84. They found that only two percent of physically active participants developed visual impairments compared to 6.7 percent of those who were sedentary. After adjusting for age, the researchers found that physically active study participants had a 58 percent reduced risk of developing eye problems. And here’s a surprise: only 4.8 of study participants who drank alcohol occasionally (defined as having consumed alcohol in the previous year, but averaging less than one drink a week) developed visual impairment compared to 11 percent of non-drinkers. Heavy drinkers and smokers also had a higher risk of vision impairment than study participants who never drank heavily and never smoked, but the association was not statistically significant.

Want To Age Gracefully?
It's not about the lines on the face - it's about the wisdom behind them. Don’t lament the passing of the years, celebrate all you have achieved, learned and earned, for your benefit and the benefit of others. Begin today - start your 14-day free trial of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging now, and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Ronald Klein, et al, “Relation of Smoking, Drinking, and Physical Activity to Changes in Vision over a 20-Year Period,” Ophthalmology, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2014.01.003

New Strategy to Prevent Cataracts

The more antioxidants in women’s diets, the lower the risk of developing cataracts as they age. This news comes from a Swedish study that looked at the diets of more than 30,000 middle aged and older women, and found those with the highest total intake of antioxidant nutrients were 13 percent less likely to develop cataracts than women whose diets were lowest in antioxidants. Cataract development may hinge on oxidative damage to the eye’s lens by free radicals, the study leader noted. Her team observed more than 30,000 Swedish women age 49 or older for about 7 years for signs of developing cataracts. The women completed a dietary questionnaire, which enabled the researchers to calculate their subjects’ total antioxidant intake. They found that the women whose diets were highest in antioxidant foods were more educated and less likely to be smokers than the women whose antioxidant intake was lowest. Antioxidants are most plentiful in colorful fruits and vegetables as well as in green tea, red wine and chocolate. The study was published online on December 26, 2013 in JAMA Ophthalmology.

Source:
Susanne Rautiainen et al, “Total Antioxidant Capacity of the Diet and Risk of Age-Related Cataract: A Population-Based Prospective Cohort of Women,” JAMA Ophthalmology, doi:10.1001