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Eyeing Your Health

Posted by Joan Salge Blake  November 29, 2011 12:03 AM

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Baby boomers not only want to live longer than the generation before them, but they want to live better.  When it comes to healthy aging, can you guess what are the top three concerns among baby boomers?  According to a recent survey of over 1,000 boomers (ages 45 to 65), it appears that the respondents were most concerned about avoiding cancer, heart disease, and the loss of their vision.  "The baby boomer generation is characterized by their desire for independence. As this generation ages, many will be affected by some type of eye concern which could impact their daily lives," claims Jeffrey Anshel, OD, FAAO, President of the Ocular Nutrition Society, which sponsored the study.    

Boomers are justified in their concern over vision loss.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 2  million Americans over age 40 suffer with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of central blindness, and another 7 million boomers are at risk.  Individuals with AMD are unable to see images directly in front of them (see photo below), which affects their everyday functioning, such as the ability to read, drive, and even watch television.

Cataracts,which cause the clouding of the lens of eye, are also a cause of decreasing vision as you age (see photo below). According the National Eye Institute, more than half of all Americans will experience cataracts or undergo cataract survey by the time they reach their 80th birthday.  

While a comprehensive eye exam by an eye care professional is the best way to detect AMD and cataracts in their early stages, your diet may also provide some eye protection.  A waist-friendly diet, chock full of carotenoid-rich green leafy vegetables and fruits such as oranges as well as omega-3 fatty acids-rich fish, may not only reduce your risk of developing AMD and cataracts but also heart disease and cancer. That's a lot of health coverage per bite.

The carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, which are abundant in the lens of your eyes appear to be super antioxidants. These carotenoids have have been shown to help protect the eyes from both AMD and cataracts. Studies also suggest that omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in both your eye and brain, can help protect against the inflammation that can damage your eyes. Lastly, being obese appears to also increase the risk of both AMD and cataracts. 

When it comes to protecting your eyes as you age, what you eat may help determine what you see.  These simple diet and lifestyle tips may help:

  • Eat at least two fish meals, especially fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines weekly. Grill extra salmon at dinner and use the leftovers in your lunch time salad. 
  • Eat lutein- and zeaxanthin-rich foods such as spinach, kale, collards, brocolli, and orange juice often throughout your week. Use baby spinach as one of your salad greens, broccoli in your stir-frys, and orange as your juice of choice at breakfast.
  • Reduce excess weight by eating a well-balanced, calorie-reducing plant-based diet. Get up and move often throughout your day so that you can accumulate at least 10,000 steps, which is the equivalent to walking 5 miles, daily. 
Do you worry about your eye health?
Originally published on the blog Nutrition and You!.

This blog is not written or edited by or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Joan Salge Blake, MS, RD, LDN, is a clinical associate professor and registered dietitian at Boston University in the Nutrition Program. Joan is the author of Nutrition &You, 2nd Edition, More »

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