Adults aged 40 years and older are at the greatest risk for eye disease that could lead to vision loss. The most common conditions include dry eyes, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Most of these disorders are asymptomatic, showing no symptoms in the early treatable stages.
Dry-eye disease is a common condition caused by inadequate tear production, which leads to inflammation and damage of the surface of the eyes. There are several causes, including aging, medications, hormone changes, autoimmune disease, or allergic eye disease.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness (at 42%) in all nations. To those affected, it is like looking through cloudy lenses. The natural lens of the eyes is made up of protein fibres arranged in such a way that permits light to pass through. However, with increasing age, these proteins clump together and cloud small areas of the lens making it more difficult to see. As such, most cataracts are age related, affecting more than half of all North Americans older than 65.
Diabetic retinopathy affects an estimated one-third of people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in adults aged 35–50. Supplied by many small blood vessels, the retina at the back of the eye creates the picture for the brain. When blood sugar is too high, the blood vessels can break and leak blood or fluid into the eye, causing damage to the retina.
Glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, the health of which is vital for good vision. This damage is often caused by abnormally high pressure in the eye.
AMD causes blurred or reduced central vision due to the thinning of a part of the retina, called the macula, which is responsible for clear vision. Macular degeneration affects more people than those with glaucoma and cataracts combined. It is generally considered to be irreversible and is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over the age of 55.
Although aging is unavoidable, there are essential factors that can improve your eye health. Stick to a diet rich in antioxidants (for example, the Mediterranean diet), exercise regularly, quit smoking, maintain normal blood sugar levels, body weight, and eye blood pressure. These healthy practices will keep your eyes healthy for a long time. Deficiencies in certain minerals and vitamins can increase the risk of many eye diseases. Supplements can help prevent or slow the development of these diseases.
Natural supplement support
Oxidative stress and inflammation play a critical role in the initiation and progression of many age-related eye disorders. Antioxidants help fight free radicals, which damage tissues throughout the body, increase inflammation, and/or damage proteins within the eye.
The National Eye Institute (NEI) updated their guidelines with the following recommendations based on the age-related eye disease study (AREDS):
Lutein and zeaxanthin are the two primary carotenoids found in the macula and retina. Studies show that these antioxidants slow the progression of AMD, and individuals who took lutein and zeaxanthin supplements reduced the progression of cataracts by 32%.
Vitamin C is an antioxidant that has been shown to lower the risk of developing cataracts. When vitamin C is taken in combination with other essential nutrients, it can slow the progression of AMD and vision loss.
Vitamin E is another important antioxidant, and when taken with vitamin C and beta-carotene, studies show it reduces the risk of AMD.
Beta-carotene and Vitamin A support eye health by keeping the surface of the eye, or the cornea, moist and healthy.
Zinc helps maintain the health of the retina, cell membranes, and protein structure of the eye. Zinc allows vitamin A to travel from the liver to the retina to produce melanin, a pigment that protects the eyes from ultraviolet (UV) light. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), taking 40–80 mg of zinc per day, along with antioxidants, could slow the progression of advanced AMD by 25%. It could also reduce vision loss by 19%.
Copper encourages the development of flexible connective tissue for healthy eye structure. It binds with zinc, and the two should be supplemented together.
For foundational support for eye health, look for a supplement that combines these important ingredients.
In addition to the recommendations from the NEI mentioned above, there are other supplements that have also been shown to support vision health, including omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, curcumin, gingko biloba, and bilberry.
Most of us don’t realize what we have until it is gone, but the wait-and-find-out approach is not the best for eye health and vision. Even mild vision impairment can have a tangible influence on the quality of your life. Diet, lifestyle, and natural supplements make it possible to maintain vision health well into old age.
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