Typically, when we think about aging, stiff muscles, swollen joints, and wrinkled skin come to mind. But age can take a toll on our eyes, too — not only impairing our vision, but also causing blindness. Let’s take a look at some of these ocular challenges.
The Most Common Age-Related Eye Issues
“Older” (40+) adults can face a host of age-related eye issues, including:
Presbyopia – The loss of near focusing ability as the lens in the eye, which needs to change shape to focus, becomes more rigid. This becomes noticeable in our 40s.
Cataracts – The change of the lens in the eye to a less transparent state, which then causes cloudy vision. Risk factors for cataracts can include high blood pressure and diabetes. While they typically start when we are in our 40s or 50s, cataracts generally don’t begin to affect vision until we’re in our 60s.
Glaucoma – The loss of peripheral vision due to optic nerve damage. A risk factor for glaucoma is high pressure of the eye. This most often occurs in people over 40.
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) – The gradual loss of central vision. AMD is the most common cause of vision loss for people over 50. It is most likely to occur in our 60s.
Floaters – The dots that appear in vision when gel in the space between the lens and retina becomes less solid. The majority of us will have eye floaters by age 70.
Dry Eye Syndrome – The eyes become less lubricated, with varying frequency and intensity, due to a lack of tears. Issues typically begin in our 50s and become more of a problem over 65.
How Lifestyle Changes Can Support the Health of Your Eyes
You may have heard that healthy lifestyles are important for our eyes, and that’s true, but some eye issues simply cannot be avoided. Nevertheless, if you’d like to support your eye health as best you can, consider these tips:
- Avoid strong UV (blue) and HEV rays
- Quit smoking
- Get regular physical exams (certain health issues like cardiovascular and blood pressure problems can promote eye challenges)
- Do not rub your eyes
- Get regular eye exams
- Follow a healthy diet (certain foods and supplements can support eye health)
- Wear UV- and HEV-blocking sunglasses (even when it’s cloudy!)
- Exercise daily
If the healthy diet caught your eye, remember that the eyes benefit from good nutrition just as our other body parts do. In fact, high intake of sugar, saturated fat, salt, refined white flours and fast food may cause problems with your eyes.
Carrots may be the best-known food to support the eyes, but other foods and their nutrients may be more influential in maintaining normal eyesight as we age. Eat lots of greens and fruits. Dark green and brightly colored fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants, which may support healthy cells in the eyes and the filtering of blue UV light. Popular food choices for eye health include: kale, spinach, salmon, orange juice, egg yolk, black-eyed peas, bell pepper (particularly orange) and chia seeds, to name a few.
Studies by the National Eye Institute
The National Eye Institute sponsored two studies, Age-Related Eye Disease Studies (AREDS1 and AREDS2) that looked at the impact of certain nutrients on cataract and advanced AMD.
In AREDS1, a supplement (the AREDS formulation) was given to participants. It included antioxidants (beta-carotene, vitamin C and vitamin E) and zinc. Researchers reported that it lowered the risk of progression to advanced AMD by about 25 percent over a five-year period. Read more about the study here.
As a follow-up, AREDS2 examined the effect of adding either a combination of lutein and zeaxanthin, or omega-3 fatty acids to the original AREDS formulation. It removed the beta-carotene and decreased the zinc. Results here showed that “use of a daily multivitamin supplement that also contained lutein and zeaxanthin (and no beta-carotene) reduced the risk of progression of AMD to advanced stages by up to 25 percent, with the greatest risk reduction occurring among participants whose diets were low in lutein and zeaxanthin at the time of enrollment in the study.” It also showed a reduced risk of vision loss by 10%. (Source)
This research is important and timely. According to the National Eye Institute, “Presently, treatment for advanced AMD is very limited, and until now there has been no treatment to slow the progression of intermediate AMD. As the average lifespan of our population increases, the number of people who develop AMD will increase dramatically in the years ahead. Unless successful means of prevention or treatment are developed, blindness from advanced AMD — and its importance as a public health problem — will increase.”
Research continues on the effects of a range of nutrients (from foods or supplements) on eye health.
Nutrients that Support Our Eyes
The Rand Eye Institute suggests you look for these nutrients when you buy a multivitamin or supplement to support healthy eyes:
- Vitamin C, 250 mg
- Vitamin E, 270 mg
- Beta-carotene, 25,000 IU
- Zinc, 80 mg
- Zeaxanthin, 500 mcg
- Selenium, 100 mcg
- Lutein, 10 mg
- Calcium, 500 mg
- Thiamin, 2 mg
- Folic acid, 800 mcg
- Omega-3 essential fatty acids (including flaxseed oil), 2,000-3,000 mg
- N-acetyl cysteine, 100 mg
- Alpha lipoic acid, 100 mg
Certain supplements contain the nutrients that researchers believe may be supportive of vision and eye health. They can be helpful when you need to “add to” the nutrients you are getting from your diet; however, taking supplements does not bridge gaps in serious nutritional shortcomings, which can lead to health issues.
Unfortunately, only about 1 in 10 Americans eats a healthy diet that includes enough fresh veggies and fruits, and minimal salt, sugar and meat. Dr. August L. Reader III, a clinical professor of ophthalmology says, “For everyone else, a natural vitamin/mineral supplement is probably worthwhile.” (Source)
If you are particularly worried about advancing AMD, you can ask your doctor about the AREDS formula.
At Natural Healthy Concepts, we have a number of eye health supplements that combine targeted nutrients, so you don’t have to take all of those pills! Here are a few of our most popular:
As the quote goes, “Life begins at 40 ― but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.” Helen Rowland was really on with that thought!
Have you noticed that aging is taking a toll on your eyes? Do you take a supplement for eye health as you age? Share your story in the comments below!