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February 26, 2014

Healthy Eye Care and Nutrition

It's common knowledge that eating the right foods helps to keep you healthy at any age. But did you know that eating certain specific healthful foods can actually help promote good eyesight and protect vision even among seniors?  

Healthy Eye Care and Nutrition

There is a growing body of research linking diet to eye health and the prevention of some the most troubling, age-related vision disorders among senior adults. The most common of these disorders -- cataracts, glaucoma and macular degeneration - are the leading causes of impaired vision and blindness in older adults. An essential part of eye care is eating the right foods that contain the right vitamins to help keep the eyes healthy. 

Like other organs in the body, the eyes need a variety of specific nutrients in order to do their job. Vitamins that contain antioxidants have been linked with eye health in various studies and clinical trials. The main focus has been on consuming a diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein, nuts and seeds, dairy foods and whole grains that contain the Vitamins A, C and E to help maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye.

Growing up, almost everyone heard the proverbial dinner table advice "eat your carrots if you want good eyesight."  Turns out, that was solid advice. Carrots are one of the best sources of Vitamin A, which is essential for producing tears and keeping the surface of the eye moist and free of infection. It is vital to proper functioning of the retina and also helps prevent night blindness by helping the eye to adapt between bright light and darkness. Inadequate Vitamin A levels will also damage the clear cornea. Vitamin A is an antioxidant found in foods made from animals which includes liver and eggs and in fruits and vegetables like carrots and spinach. Most types of milk are also fortified with Vitamin A.

Vitamin C is essential to keeping the eyes healthy and helps reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and the formation of cataracts. Vitamin C, as we all know, cannot only be found in citrus fruits and of course orange juice, but also in green peppers, strawberries, broccoli, and sweet potatoes.

Consuming a plentiful amount of Vitamin E has been associated with the prevention of cataracts and the delay of its growth. The best sources of Vitamin E are nuts, green leafy vegetables, and fortified products such as cereal.

One of the best known eye-protecting antioxidants, lutein, is found in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale, and also in sweet corn, peas and broccoli. Another essential dietary need to help prevent dry eyes and possibly cataracts, omega-3 essential fatty acids, are found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts and canola oil.

There has also been a lot of interest in the role of nutritional supplements and eye vitamins and their effect on vision among seniors. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) tested a dietary supplement combination of Vitamin C, beta carotene, Vitamin E and zinc on adults at risk for developing macular degeneration. Results found that they were less likely to develop advanced AMD when they took the supplements. Another study done by researchers from the Blue Mountains Eye Study found that taking a daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids, daily multivitamins and Vitamin B supplements reduced the risk of cataracts. While research about taking eye vitamins and vision supplements is still inconclusive, adding them to a balanced diet is generally considered very safe. It is always wise, however, to check with the senior's doctor first to be certain that they do not affect other medications that your senior takes. As a caregiver, here are some key points to remember for promoting and maintaining good the eye health of senior adults:

  • Make sure his or her diet is balanced and includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Discuss how to improve his or her eye health with an eye doctor.
  • Get his or her eyes tested at least every two years and more frequently if necessary.

With healthy eating and special attention paid to eye care, it may be possible to extend good eye health for many years to come.

'The Key Role of Nutrition in Eye Health',
"How Diet and Nutrition Protect Aging Eyes,\" By Shereen Jegtvig, Certified Nutrition Specialist, Access Media Group Healthcare Publishers,
"Healthy Vision for All Ages: Your Eye Health Guide\",
"10 Super Foods to Protect Vision. They fight glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts.,\" By Jennifer Nelson, from: AARP Bulletin, January 21, 2011,

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