nutrition and eye health

Nutrition and Eye Health

Imagine what it would be like to be blind… not to see sunrises and sunsets; not to see the faces of your loved ones; not to enjoy everything that sight has to offer in your life. There are millions of people around the world that are blind or vision-impaired, so if you can see properly, even with corrective lenses, you should consider yourself lucky.

Age-related cataracts are the single biggest cause of blindness. To fix this problem, a doctor must remove the cloudy lens during surgery, and then replace it with a healthy, intraocular lens. Scientists still don’t know for sure why cataracts form, but it is widely believed that specific proteins and enzymes in the eye become damaged by oxidative stress, and this is what creates the cloudy effect.

If you eat a nutritious diet that is full of antioxidants and specific vitamins, you may be able to decrease the risk of contracting cataracts once you get older. This means eating enough fruit, vegetables and other foods that give you enough nutrients without having to take supplements (if possible.) Obviously, if you are low on anything, you should take supplements to help boost your nutritional levels.

Macular degeneration is another cause of blindness that should be avoided if possible. Increase your intake of antioxidants and carotenoids (e.g. kale, carrots and spinach among others) to reduce the risk of this disease as well.

Macular degeneration actually comes in two forms – dry and wet. It occurs when the central part of your retina becomes damaged because either you have leaking blood vessels (in the case of the wet form) or your retinal cells deteriorate (in the case of the dry form).

You may have eye disease to the point that you won’t be able to avoid either cataracts or macular degeneration. However, if your diet is full of the right nutrients in type and quantity, you may be able to slow down its progress.

Talk to your doctor or dietitian if you plan on radically changing your diet, because the changes may trigger other problems. You don’t want to avoid eye disease, only to find out that you contract a different disease as a result. If you smoke consider quitting, as this is a major risk factor for eye diseases. Regardless of your age when you quit, it will still have long-lasting positive effects, so it is never too late to quit.

It’s impossible to name every helpful vitamin and mineral, as studies tend to focus on different foods and elements. What is known for sure is that you should avoid eating too much food that’s high on the Glycemic Index. It is also advisable to keep your blood pressure under control by not eating too much sodium, because that can cause damage to the blood vessels in your eyes. Avoid highly processed foods and read labels on new foods to understand their contents better.

If you notice any problems with your eyes, don’t ignore them. It is much better to seek help and catch a problem early enough to prevent it from getting worse, than to put off a visit to the doctor until the things get very complicated.

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