As many as 10% of the US population suffer from blood glucose control issues, and an estimated 40% of current US adults will develop these issues in their lifetime. While nutrition is important for everyone, it becomes one of the cornerstones of patients trying to keep their blood glucose and blood pressure levels down. The right foods and nutrients can even impact the chance of developing eye health complications related to poor blood glucose control.
Nutrition for Eye Health
Eye health and nutrition are intimately connected, and this connection is emphasized even more when patients run the risk of blindness. According to the American Optometric Association, nearly 80% of Americans don’t know that eye health issues caused by high blood glucose show no symptoms. While blurry vision can be one of the first signs of glucose control issues, less than half of the country know that comprehensive eye exams can identify problems with blood glucose control before irreversible damage occurs.
If the patient doesn’t get their blood glucose under control, the retinal blood vessels can become damaged. These damaged vessels are what lead to leaking in the retina, and eventually, to loss of sight. Getting control of blood glucose and pressure is the first step to protecting against visual impairment due to high levels of glucose in the blood, as well as risk of death and other health complications.
Activities that are difficult with decreased visual function:
- Medication management (e.g. trouble seeing the labels or the differences in pills)
- Playing board or card games
- Watching TV
- Navigating steps, stairs, and hallways
- Using appliances (e.g. trouble telling what buttons to press)
- Functioning safely in the kitchen (e.g. using knives)
There are several lifestyle changes patients can make that can ultimately help maintain their vision. Quitting smoking and improving diet and exercise are a few obvious but necessary alterations. Controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose must also be included in the well-being of patients with glucose control issues. Studies have proven that patients sticking to a diet with a low glycemic index can help improve control over these variables. Though this can be beneficial to the overall effect of high blood glucose on the body, several specific nutrients must be included to impact eye health.
There are many ingredients that can directly benefit eye health, but many of them can be difficult to get in the typical diet. Those with blood glucose control issues can have even more trouble getting these eye health nutrients as they need to be extra careful of what they put in their bodies. Supplementation is an effective option for these patients to get the specific ingredients they need to protect their eyes.
EyePromise created a formula with these patients in mind. EyePromise DVS is specifically formulated with essential nutrients to support visual function and blood vessel health without impacting normal blood glucose levels. Recorded in the Diabetes Visual Function Supplement Study (DiVFuSS), improvements in visual function included macular pigment optical density (MPOD), color vision, contrast sensitivity, and visual field sensitivity. A few selected DVS ingredients include:
- Zeaxanthin – The most critical nutrient needed for vision protection and improvement. Zeaxanthin acts as “internal sunglasses” for vision by protecting it from harmful blue light and other oxidants. For those with blood glucose control issues, zeaxanthin reduced production of VEGF while normalizing retinal thickness, retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) integrity, and the number of retinal ganglion cells; all without affecting normal blood glucose levels.
- Lutein – This nutrient works with zeaxanthin in protecting and improving vision. Together with zeaxanthin, it was associated with a reduction of risk for developing eye health concerns due to high blood glucose by two thirds.
- Benfotiamine – A powerful antioxidant and relative of vitamin B1 (thiamine) that increases the enzyme that redirects glucose and harmful glucose metabolites and helps protect against microvascular damage. Benfotiamine also improves nerve conduction and sensations in those who have neuropathy due to poor blood glucose control.
- Pycnogenol® – An extract found in French Maritime Pine bark, Pycnogenol hinders inflammation and improves blood vessel brittleness. It also interferes with the breakdown of the blood-retinal barrier, reducing the likeliness of bleeding into the retina.
- Curcumin – A component of turmeric with broad benefits for the body, brain, and eye. Curcumin reduces inflammatory cytokines implicated in obesity and insulin resistance. This nutrient also protects against membrane changes linked to blood glucose-related eye health concerns and improves retinal blood flow.
- Vitamins C & E – An essential vitamin duo that has been associated with a lower risk of developing eye health problems from high blood glucose with long-term use.
For patients who have trouble controlling their blood glucose levels, here are a few tips to protect their eye health:
- Control blood sugar & blood pressure – first and foremost, they must control their blood sugar and pressure levels. They can do this by following several of the following suggestions.
- Know family history – if family members have blood glucose-related eye health concerns, that patient’s risk of developing problems increases. These patients should keep a close watch on their eye health.
- Eat a healthy diet – following the suggestions of the American Diabetes Association can be a great start to eating for controlled blood glucose.
- Take an eye health nutraceutical – nutraceuticals are able to give patients the amount of critical nutrients they need to protect their eyes, and EyePromise DVS can support their vision without impacting normal blood glucose levels.
- Get active – living a healthy lifestyle makes it easier to control blood glucose and blood pressure. Getting at least 30 minutes of activity during most days can reduce blood pressure as well as some medications.
- Schedule an eye exam – make sure patients know to come into the office if they notice:
- Blurry vision
- Light flashes
- Black spots or holes in their vision
In our next post, Dr. Paul Chous joins the conversation to explain the details of the DiVFuSS study.
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