Age-related eye health issues are by far the most common cause of vision loss among the elderly. Although we do not have a cure, numerous studies have shown that the right nutrition and nutritional supplementations can reduce the risk & progression of these issues. It is important to keep in mind that the right nutrients that protect you from age-related eye health issues are best derived from dietary intake. Thus, taking an eye vitamin should be an addition to and not a substituted for a proper diet.
Oxidative stress is directly correlated to age-related eye health issues. During normal physiological process your body reacts with oxygen to produce energy, resulting in the production of highly reactive molecules known as free radicals. These free radicals interact with other molecules, which in turn cause damage to healthy cells. This process is known as oxidative damage or stress and has been associated in a number of degenerative diseases, including age-related eye health issues. Hence by furnishing your body with a diet rich in high levels of antioxidants will provide the ability to combat the disease. There are numerous nutrients, which have been proven to reduce the rate of progression & may in fact protect the eyes against age-related eye health issues. For example, a variety of rich colored fruits and vegetables can provide an intricate source of carotenoids. Nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, are strong antioxidants that comprise your macular pigment. Macular pigment is the natural filter in the back of the eye, which protects the eye against damaging UV light & oxidative stress. Good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin include leafy green vegetables (spinach & kale), berries, red bell peppers, corn and even eggs.
In addition to a well balanced diet, increasing exercise & avoiding smoking can also protect against age-related eye health issues. Patients with active lifestyles are far less likely to develop age-related eye health issues than those with a sedentary lifestyle. Physical activity reduces oxidative stress & inflammatory environment; both of which play a role in the development of age-related eye health issues. A simple way to increase daily activity is engaging in a brisk walk for 20-30 minutes. Numerous studies have proven that there is a direct link between smoking and age-related eye health issues. In fact, the correlation may be associated with a reduction of the levels of antioxidants, in addition to lowering levels of macular pigment. Of note, it is never too late to stop smoking. Smoking cessation will result in beneficial outcome related to age-related eye health issues.
In conclusion, along with some behavioral modifications, follow your eye care providers recommendation to ensure you are doing your very best to protect your eyes against age-related eye health issues.
Diana Shechtman, O.D. F.A.A.O. is an associate professor of optometry at Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, where she serves as an attending optometric physician at the eye institute and diabetic/macula clinic. Dr. Shechtman is a member of the American Optometric Association (AOA) and she is a fellow of the American Academy of Optometry (AAO), as well as the Optometric Retinal Society (ORS). Her area of interest has centered on retinal disease and other ocular pathologies. She has participated in various research projects, authored numerous posters and publications. She is a member of the editorial board for Optometry times and Review of Optometry, where she co-authors the monthly “Research Review” column. She also is also a member of the macular degeneration association and ocular nutrition society advisory board. She has lectured on a local, national & international level on areas in retinal disease.