A Thanksgiving dinner with vision-friendly nutrients

Nutrients for your vision health are abundant in vegetables and the Thanksgiving meal invites lots of vegetable side dishes. Here’s a few that might already be on your menu or will be easy to add to it!

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes are high in vitamin A, and this vitamin protects the surface of your eyes. Sweet potatoes have vitamin C and vitamin E too. Vitamin C, evidence suggests, lowers the risk of cataracts. Vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant that fights inflammation, protects cells in the eyes from damage and can fight against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Keep away from the high sugar toppings like marshmallow and brown sugar, those are not eye-friendly.

Choose greens
Look around for the greens on the table because you know those are great choices. Brussels sprouts are in season – a good reason for them to show up on the Thanksgiving table. Like other leafy green vegetables, brussels sprouts are full of vitamin C. Vitamin C supports vision health in many ways like slowing the progression of AMD and supporting blood vessels in the eye. Broccoli, green beans and spinach are an excellent source of vitamin A. I mean, you really can’t go wrong with the green veggies – so good for your overall health.

Snacks while you wait
While you’re all waiting for the turkey to cook, put out some snacks like raw carrots and celery. Carrots have vitamin A and other nutrients like lutein and beta-carotene, both known to promote eye health. Celery is a good source of vitamins A and C.

Butternut squash
Butternut squash is another vegetable in season and is filled with nutrients, like powerful vitamin A. One cup of cooked butternut squash has over 300% of the recommended daily allowance. On the long list of its nutrients is vitamin C, another vitamin for vision health we’ve been discussing.

Create options
While some of these vegetables might get covered up in some unhealthy choices like gravy and butter, consider having different versions available. For example, try baked sweet potatoes instead of mashed with butter and cream and steamed green beans with sliced almonds instead of in a casserole.

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Your vision health may be linked to your genes

When it comes to your vision, you might share more than your parents’ eye color. You could have inherited an eye disease. Just like it’s important to know your family’s medical history for heart and other diseases, it’s the same for your family’s eye health history, suggests the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

The National Eye Institute (NIH) recommends talking to family members including parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles. Since some eye diseases are passed down, knowing your family’s eye health history could help determine if you are high risk.

Knowing your family’s eye health history is one of the five steps the NIH recommends to keep your eyes healthy, along with getting a comprehensive dilated eye exam, using protective eyewear, wearing sunglasses, and living a healthy lifestyle.

What to know

Glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are hereditary and two of the leading causes of blindness in adults, but they don’t have early stage symptoms. The Glaucoma Research Foundation states that your risk of glaucoma with increase four to nine times if the disease exists in your family history. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, you have a “50 percent chance of developing AMD” if the disease runs in your family.

In addition, myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness) and astigmatism are common vision problems that have been linked to genetics.

What to do

Have a discussion with your family. Get regular eye exams, and talk to your vision care provider. After sharing your family’s eye health history, the doctor will be able to look for any signs of potential problems.

Be proactive about your eye health and overall health. Staying fit and eating fruits and vegetables, like leafy greens, will keep you and your eyes healthy. Wearing sunglasses and being aware of eye strain, if you spend a lot of time in front of a computer screen or other electronic devices, are also proactive ways to keep your eyes healthy.

While you figure out where your green eyes came from, learn about your family’s eye health history. You’ll be one step closer to healthy vision.

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Vision health issues that can come with age and actions to take

For Healthy Aging Month, here are some of the vision health issues that can occur as we get older, followed by preventive steps and action items.

Cataracts
A cataract is a clouding on the lens of your eye. The cloudiness prevents light from entering the eye. Cataracts can cause blurred vision or complete vision loss. There are also different types of cataracts such as congenital, traumatic and secondary. Age-related cataracts are the most common and usually develop after age 40.

Losing focus
The lenses of your eyes starts to change as you age, causing blurriness and trouble focusing.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
AMD is brought on by age, and mostly affects those who are 60 or older. It causes loss in the center of field of vision.

Glaucoma
Glaucoma is an eye disease that can lead to permanent vision loss. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), it’s one of the leading causes of blindness in the United States. Glaucoma is easy to detect, but can occur without symptoms. That means you need to visit your eye doctor.

Here’s what to do
A good place to start is visiting your eye doctor, getting a comprehensive eye exam and finding out more information.

Visit your vision provider annually
Because, as we age, we need to be concerned with more than just vision impairment. There are other health issues like diabetes, high blood pressure, and some cancers, that your vision provider can detect during a comprehensive eye exam.

The National Eye Institute states that vision loss and blindness are “not a normal part of aging” but some changes like losing focus, trouble distinguishing some colors and needing more light to see are common. But keep in mind, these vision changes “can often be corrected.” Visit your vision provider every one to two years.

Wear sunglasses
We should always be aware of the damage UV rays can cause to our vision. Protecting our eyes from the sun is important for all age groups, and putting on your shades every time you step outside is a good habit to have. The long-term exposure to UV rays can increase your risk for cataracts when you get older.

Make healthy choices…
And this isn’t just eating more fruits and vegetables. Making healthy choices also means quitting smoking and keeping normal blood pressure and maintaining good cholesterol and glucose levels. Throw in 30 minutes of exercise daily, and your healthy choices are complete to benefit your vision health.

Quitting smoking will also lower your risk for eye diseases like AMD and cataracts. Maintaining a healthy weight to lower your risk of developing diabetes is important because this condition can damage your eyes and potentially lead to vision loss. High blood pressure is also a condition that can damage your eyes.

Educate yourself
Knowing and being aware of any symptoms of vision loss will help you take the necessary step of visiting your vision provider and getting an eye exam. Look for any changes while reading, driving, or watching TV. Look for any changes with your loved ones like squinting or bumping into things. Knowing risk factors and your family history is an important part of your healthy aging process.

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A healthy breakfast for healthy eyes

Breakfast can now be the healthy vision meal of your day! Breakfast foods like eggs are filled with vitamins and nutrients that keep your eyes healthy. And now that we’re back to school, you want to start the day off right for you and your kids. Making time for a healthy meal in the morning is important to sustain energy throughout the day.

Here are some breakfast choices for healthy vision:

Eggs

Make some scrambled eggs, or an omelet with vegetables, and you’re good to go! Eggs provide nutrients like lutein and zeaxanthin that can keep your eyes healthy. Lutein helps fight macular degeneration and zeaxanthin can reduce your risk of developing cataracts.

Blueberries and oranges

Blueberries can go over oatmeal, in a smoothie, or just grabbed by the handful in the morning. Oranges make a great to-go breakfast or a glass of OJ always complements other breakfast foods. Turns out these morning-friendly foods are also filled with vitamins for your eyes. Fruits like oranges and blueberries contain zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin E, vitamin C and antioxidants (like lutein and zeaxanthin) that protect your eyes and could reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration.

Spinach

Spinach, kale or other leafy greens are perfect ingredients for your omelet or smoothie. A spinach quiche, which can be made ahead of time to help with the morning rush, combines two eye-healthy choices. And spinach, just like the others, contains those special antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin.

Flax seed and walnuts

These are perfect additions to sprinkle on your cereal or oatmeal. And you can toss some flax seeds in the blender for your smoothie. Both flax seeds and walnuts are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids which has shown in studies to help with the common problem of dry eye.

Some other vision-friendly fruits that taste good in the morning are mangoes, avocados, bananas and peaches. Avocado toast is a healthy and filling breakfast, and the other fruits are good additions to your smoothies. Who knew your morning meal could benefit your sleepy eyes so much? Now you are wide-eyed and ready for your day.

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Sweet potato chips recipe for a healthy after-school snack

Try this delicious and healthy after-school snack. Sweet potato chips are a great way to replace starchy, salty chips with something that tastes just as great and helps maintain healthy vision. Sweet potatoes have so many vitamins including vitamin A, vitamin C and beta-carotene.

Ingredients:
1 large sweet potato, peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt

Directions:
Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats. Slice the sweet potato into thin, uniform chips. (If you’re using a mandolin slicer with 3 thickness settings, choose the second setting.) Place the potato slices on the baking sheets in a single layer and lightly brush them with oil. Season evenly with salt. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes until the chips are crispy. Flip chips to the other side after 30 minutes. Allow the chips to cool for 5 minutes before serving. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

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Visit the eye doctor before school starts

Before your final summer days get filled up with other back-to-school activities, schedule an appointment with your eye doctor for your kids and yourself! Comprehensive eye exams can detect underlying eye conditions and improve your children’s performance at school. You also want to keep your prescription (if you already wear glasses) up-to-date.

Eye exams are often skipped

A survey found that over 50% of parents in the U.S. don’t take their kids for a comprehensive eye exam before going back to school. In the same survey, the majority of respondents agreed that eye exams are important for their kids. So what is preventing parents from taking their kids to the eye doctor? Some might think that vision screenings, sometimes offered at school, are adequate. But vision screenings and eye exams are different and screenings can miss the majority of vision problems. A comprehensive eye exam can include checking for depth perception, color blindness, and eye alignment, in addition to the visual acuity test. Your eye doctor will also check the structure of your child’s eye making sure everything is normal and healthy.

When to take your child for an eye exam

There can be warning signs your child has a vision problem, but even without symptoms or if your child has a low risk of vision problems, the American Optometric Association recommends children receive an eye exam at 6 months of age, 3 years of age, 5 years of age (before first grade), and then every two years or as suggested by your doctor. If your child is at risk, the frequency changes to every year or as recommended. Look for a list of factors that place a child at risk for vision impairment here.

Vision problems can affect learning

Sometimes with kids, vision problems can be misdiagnosed or undetected. There is a link between vision and learning, so making sure they can read the blackboard, their books and their laptops is important. About 80% of learning is through a child’s vision and 60% of students who are labeled as problem learners have an undiagnosed vision problem. Adding eye exams to your priority list will benefit your child and their learning.

Visiting your vision provider is an essential part of your health routine. Take some time to prepare your family for the school year ahead and schedule your eye exams today.

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The difference between an ophthalmologist, an optometrist and an optician

If you know the difference between the three vision care professionals, it will help when you go to your next comprehensive eye exam. Ophthalmologists, optometrists and opticians all provide eye care services, but the levels of training and expertise are different. An eye doctor, either an ophthalmologist or an optometrist, will oversee your eye exam, and an optician will likely be the specialist who will fit and dispense your corrective lens. Here’s some more information on each eye care professional:

Ophthalmologist

Ophthalmologists specialize in medical and surgical conditions of the eye. They will perform eye surgery and treat eye diseases. An ophthalmologist could be a doctor of medicine or a doctor of osteopathic medicine. They usually work in a medical office and may be affiliated with a hospital. Their education includes an undergraduate degree, medical school and four years of medical residency. They are also board certified.

Optometrist

An optometrist is a doctor of optometry. Typically, optometrists complete four years of undergraduate work and a four-year postgraduate degree program, which includes medical training. An optometrist’s work includes the diagnosis and management of eye diseases, and optometrists may treat eye diseases with medications.

Optician

An optician fits and dispenses corrective lenses like eyeglasses and contact lenses. Optician educational training can vary but may include certificate programs or associate degree programs. Licensing depends on the state laws.

Check to see if your eye doctor is in the Advantica network or find a vision care professional in the Advantica network.

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