Which of your five senses do you most fear losing? I know it's my sight, and apparently 55 percent of other baby boomers feel the same way. Concerns about eye health are right up there with worries about heart disease and cancer according to a survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society done in 2011.
So why aren't we doing more to protect our vision?
Nearly half of the survey respondents said they don't typically have an annual eye exam and even fewer were aware of the ways to keep their eyes healthy. This is a problem we need to focus on (pun intended) since the National Eye Institute projects the number of eye health issues among Americans will double over the next 30 years due the aging of the population.
Nutrients That Protect Your Eyes
Four of the biggest causes of vision trouble – cataracts, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and diabetic retinopathy – are linked to good nutrition. Do you know if your diet and supplements are meeting all of your visual needs?
Most people know that Vitamin A is important for good vision after hearing all those carrot jokes growing up. But three other equally important nutrients are less familiar: Omega 3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin.
The percentage of survey respondents not aware of the role of these nutrients in maintaining eye health were:
- 60% for Omega 3 fatty acids
- 66% for Lutein
- 89% for Zeaxanthin
Omega 3 fats are the ones in oily fish, like salmon and sardines, and in walnuts and flax seeds. Lutein and zeaxanthin are plant pigments most abundant in leafy green vegetables, but also found in pistachio nuts, corn, and egg yolks. A diet including two 3-ounces servings of fish each week 2-3 cups of vegetables every day is a good way to get the needed amounts of each.
If your diet is not that consistent, a dietary supplement may be needed to fill the gaps. The Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for Omega 3 fatty acids is 1.6 grams/day for men and 1.1 grams a day for women. The National Academy of Sciences has not established a DRI for Lutein/Zeaxanthin, but current recommendations are 6-10 mg/day for adults.
Other Ways to Take Care of Your Eyes
- Wear sunglasses, safety glasses and protective sports lenses
- Replace liquid and creamy eye makeup every 3 months and whenever you develop an eye infection
- Look away from computers screens for 20 seconds every 20 minutes
At what age did you first need help to correct your vision?