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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How to reduce your risk of eye injury

Keeping your eyes safe from hazards only requires a few steps. Whether going for a swim or doing chores around the house, remember to keep your eyes protected. You will reduce your risk of eye injury by 90 percent if you wear protective eyewear.

Protect your eyes

You may already be required to wear safety protection at work, like safety glasses or face shields, but remember when you’re working at home, you need that protection, too. Some house chores that could be hazardous to your eyes include home repairs, yard work and cleaning with chemicals.

Home repairs. If you’re using a power tool, were eye protection. Using a hammer and nails or other tools can create an environment where those items can become projectiles.

Yard work. Lawn mowers, trimmers and blowers can propel debris or other materials into your eyes. Safety glasses can also provide protection from branches and twigs that can be hazardous.

Cleaning with chemicals. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, chemicals in cleaning products, like bleach, cause 125,000 eye injuries a year.

At work, or when working at home, consider safety glasses with side shields, face shields, goggles with ventilation, and other variations when deciding what gear best fits with your task. The fit of your protective eyewear is important for its effectiveness.

If you already wear glasses, those glasses aren’t enough to protect you. When choosing protective eyewear, look for the appropriate kind for your activity.

Are you protecting your eyes when you play sports?

For sports, the National Eye Institute created a chart to find the right eye protection for a list of sports. There are many varieties of sports goggles, all specially designed for certain sports. And not only will the sports eyewear protect, they can advance and improve the performance of the athlete.

Basketball, baseball and racquet sports can have the most potential for eye injury. According to an article on AllAboutVision.com, the amount of sports-related eye injuries reported in emergency rooms are over 40,000 every year. But most of these injuries are preventable with protective eyewear. With sports, we may think of flying objects as the hazard, but eye injuries can be a result of an elbow or finger in a close contact sport.

Too much chlorine could hurt your eyes

This summer, if you and your family are spending time at the pool, think about your eyes. The chlorine in the pool is protecting us from bacteria, but pools with too much chlorine can cause damage to the surface of your eyes. Chlorine can cause eyes to become red and itchy because it washes away the tear film on the surface of eyes. Tear film is the thin layer that keeps your eyes moist and smooth. Wearing swim goggles might be the best way to protect your eyes and your kids’ eyes. Washing your face and eyes with fresh water after a swim and using eye drops are some other things you can do combat the effects of chlorine on eyes.

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Sweet potato burger recipe for summer shindigs

Sweet potato burgers

Sweet potatoes are healthy, delicious and make a great burger – they are also good for your vision health! With nutrients like vitamin E, sweet potatoes can fight inflammation, protect cells in the eyes from damage and can fight against cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). This recipe is great for a summer party.

Ingredients:

1 medium sweet potato with skin removed, cubed
1 16-ounce can chickpeas, drained
½ small onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
Juice from ½ lime
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon basil
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook sweet potatoes in boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until soft. Remove from heat, drain water and let cool. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until well-combined. Use a spoon to scoop out 1/5 of the mixture and form it into a patty with your hands. Place on a baking tray covered with parchment paper. Repeat process for the remaining mixture. Place baking tray with patties into the oven and bake for 30-50 minutes or until slightly golden brown and firm. Add your favorite toppings!

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