Since 2020 is the Year of the Eye, we thought we would give you the scoop on eye health. Good vision and quality of life go hand in hand — that’s why protecting your eyesight as you age is essential.
Our eyes are complex organs that need many different vitamins and nutrients to function properly; the following help to maintain eye health.
Vitamin A plays a crucial role in vision by maintaining a clear cornea, which is the outside covering of your eye. This vitamin is also a component of rhodopsin, a protein in your eyes that allows you to see in low light conditions. Some studies suggest that diets high in vitamin A may be associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (ARMD). Sweet potatoes are an excellent source, as are carrots, green leafy vegetables, pumpkins, and bell peppers.
Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells — especially your eye cells — from damage by harmful molecules. Vitamin E-rich options include nuts, seeds, cooking oils, salmon, avocado, and leafy green vegetables.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that may protect your eyes against damaging free radicals. It is required to make collagen, a protein that provides structure to your eye, particularly in the cornea and sclera. Several studies suggest that vitamin C may help lower your risk of developing cataracts. Citrus and tropical fruits, bell peppers, broccoli, and kale contain high amounts of vitamin C.
Riboflavin (or vitamin B2) has the potential to reduce oxidative stress in your body, including your eyes. Scientists are studying riboflavin’s potential to prevent cataracts, as many individuals with cataracts have been found to be deficient in this antioxidant. Foods high in riboflavin include oats, milk, yogurt, beef, and fortified cereals.
The main function of niacin (or vitamin B3) in your body is to convert food into energy. Studies suggest that niacin may play a role in the prevention of glaucoma. Supplements should be used with caution. When consumed in high amounts of 1.5 to 5 grams per day, niacin may pose adverse effects to the eyes, including blurred vision, macular damage, and inflammation of the cornea. However, there is no evidence that consuming foods naturally high in niacin has any adverse effects. Some food sources include beef, poultry, fish, mushrooms, peanuts, and legumes.
Thiamine plays a role in proper cell function and is possibly effective at reducing the risk of cataracts. Food sources include whole grains, meat, and fish.
Fatty Acids The cell membranes of your retina contain a high concentration of DHA, a particular type of omega-3. Besides helping form the cells of your eye, omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory properties, which may play a role in the prevention of diabetic retinopathy. Omega-3 fats benefit individuals with dry eye disease by helping them produce more tears. Omega-3 rich sources include fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, and soy.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are both part of the carotenoid family, a group of beneficial compounds made by plants. Both can be found in the macula and retina of your eyes, where they help filter potentially harmful blue light, thus protecting your eyes from damage. Several studies suggest that these plant compounds may prevent cataracts and prevent or slow the progression of ARMD. Cooked spinach, kale, and collard greens are high in these carotenoids.
Steps To Help Maintain Eye Health As You Age
Eat right. Contrary to what your mother may have told you, carrots are not the only foods that help you see well. Foods that are rich in the nutrients listed above are known to protect against age-related eye problems.
Kick the habit. If you smoke, you’re putting yourself at greater risk for optic nerve damage, cataracts, and macular degeneration. Consider starting a smoking cessation program.
Avoid UV rays. Overexposure to ultraviolet rays increases your chance of developing vision problems. The best way to combat the effects of UV rays is with proper sunglasses. Look for a pair that blocks at least ninety-nine per cent of UVA and UVB rays, as well as ones with polarized lenses to reduce glare.
Maintain a healthy weight and an active lifestyle. Exercise improves blood circulation, which improves oxygen levels to the eyes and the removal of toxins.
When To See Your Doctor
See your family physician regularly and visit your ophthalmologist every one to two years. Having a complete eye exam is important; most eye diseases can be treated when found at an early stage. If you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, have an eye exam with pupil dilation at least annually. See an eye doctor immediately if you have any loss of eyesight, blurred vision, eye pain, double vision, redness, swelling of your eye or eyelid, or fluids coming from the eye.
By Sherry Dumont, RN
ARTACares is provided by HumanaCare, an Alberta-based health and wellness provider with more than thirty-five years of Canadian health care experience.