Summer foods for healthy vision

When summer arrives, so do all the wonderful fruits and vegetables in season. For your vision health, and overall health, fruits and vegetables are, of course, the foundation. As your vision benefits provider, we put together some summer food recommendations for your eye health.

Watermelons, along with strawberries, have valuable vitamin C. The vitamin C found in these fruits could lower your risk of developing cataracts, scientific evidence suggests, according to the American Optometric Association (AOA).

Tomatoes are another vegetable in abundance at your farmer’s market in the summer. And tomatoes are packed with vitamin C.

Raspberries are another summer fruit high in vitamin C. Keep raspberries, with strawberries and watermelon cut up and ready to eat, in the fridge. It will make it easier for you and your family to make the choice of healthy fruits instead of sugary snacks.

Peppers. Salads make great light summer fare. Along with the green bell peppers in season, toss in some eye-healthy spinach and carrots to make a nutrient-rich salad. The AOA reported that eating foods with vitamin C along with beta-carotene, vitamin E and other nutrients can slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Bell peppers and raspberries provide these nutrients.

Lots of beta-carotene choices. Cantaloupe, mangos, apricots and peaches might make you think of summer. Now they can make you think of eye health too. Beta-carotene can be converted to vitamin A which is a great nutrient for your eyes.

Dark, leafy greens. Lutein and zeaxanthin, beneficial to your eyes, can be found in spinach, kale, collard greens and broccoli, along with peas and avocados, which are all great for a summer salad.

Salmon. If you like to grill in the summer, fish, like salmon, is full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential to your eye health. Looks like we put together a great summer menu–salad, grilled fish and fruit for dessert.

Keep up the healthy routine

All the fruits and vegetables available in the summer can make it easier to keep up your healthy living routine. But don’t forget to schedule an eye exam with your vision care provider for you and your family.

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5 steps to healthy vision

Sight could be one of the five senses that we take for granted the most. The National Eye Institute (NIH) says more than 23 million Americans (age 18 and older) have never had an eye exam. That is why Healthy Vision Month is important.

Started in 2003, the NIH promotes Healthy Vision Month to encourage us to make eye health a priority. The NIH made it easy for you to recognize the occasion with five steps to keep your eyes healthy. Check these off your list and keep them in mind not just this month, but all year.

Get a comprehensive dilated eye exam–Schedule a comprehensive dilated eye exam with your vision care provider. Some common eye diseases do not have early symptoms, but a comprehensive dilated eye exam can detect these diseases in the early stages.

Use protective eyewear–Make sure you and your family are using protective eyewear during sports and other recreational activities. A good reminder now that the summer months are here. Also, when you are taking care of chores around the house or if you have a job that could pose a risk to your eyes, safety glasses can prevent injury.

Know your family eye health history–Do some research and check in with your family members (parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles). Knowing if your family has vision problems or diseases will help determine if you are at high risk.

Wear sunglasses–When you purchase sunglasses, pick a pair that blocks out 99-100% of UVA/UVB rays. The sun can have negative effects on your eyes. For example, extended UV exposure can cause cataracts.

Live a healthy lifestyle–Your overall health affects the health of your eyes. More specifically, maintaining a healthy weight can reduce your risk of diabetes, which can lead to diabetic eye disease and vision loss. Other recommendations–consume healthy foods, refrain from smoking, and manage any chronic health conditions. All of these can be linked to your vision health.

Now, participate even more with Healthy Vision Month–share this information with your family and friends. We’re happy you’re not taking your eyesight for granted.

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How to find an eye doctor

A great way to recognize Healthy Vision Month and to ensure your own healthy vision is to schedule a comprehensive eye exam with an Advantica vision provider. We have a provider search tool to help you find an eye doctor. And there’s some other information to consider when setting up an appointment.

Use the provider search tool

On Advantica’s homepage, there is a Provider Search tool. You will see it in the middle of the page, highlighted in orange. After choosing the option, Vision Care Provider, you will see various fields to enter information like city, state or zip code. You can also narrow your results by choosing a maximum distance radius from your location. Additionally, you can search by provider last name, practice name or specialty.

After clicking the “Search for a Provider” button, your results will be listed on screen and can also be exported to a PDF or Excel document. Information includes address, phone numbers, specialty and whether the provider is accepting new patients.

How to verify coverage

There are two ways to verify your coverage. You can call customer service and they will provide you with specific plan information. Or, your provider can call our provider service line to verify your vision plan coverage.

If your eye doctor is out-of-network

If you visit an out-of-network provider, you will need to submit an out-of-network reimbursement form for payment, with a copy of your original receipt, to the following address:

Advantica
Attention: Claims Department
PO Box 8510
St. Louis, MO 63126

Refer to your benefit booklet for additional information regarding your plan’s out-of-network benefits. Note that not all plans have out-of-network benefits, so please contact your benefits administrator or call our customer service center for assistance – 866-425-2323.

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Protect your eyes during allergy season

Allergy season can bring about some uncomfortable symptoms, especially for your eyes. As your vision benefits provider, we want to make sure you protect your eyes this season. Here are 6 tips to get you started:

  1. Avoid exposure
    Try to minimize your exposure to allergens by keeping windows closed and wearing sunglasses with as much coverage as possible. Whether at home or in your car, air conditioning and filtering the air can provide some relief.
  2. Use eye drops
    There are many brands, so consult your eye doctor for a recommendation. Allergy eye drops will reduce the histamine in your eye tissues, so this might be a good option to directly help your swollen, watery, red and itchy eyes. You can try over-the-counter for your mild symptoms, but if you don’t see improvement, see your eye doctor for prescription eye drops.
  3. Remove contact lenses
    During allergy season, wearing your eyeglasses instead of your contact lenses may help with eye allergies. The surface of your contact lenses can collect allergens.
  4. Treat with medications
    If over-the-counter eye drops aren’t enough, oral medications can relieve your eye allergy symptoms. Antihistamines, decongestants, and other options can be prescribed by your doctor or bought over the counter.
  5. Don’t itch!
    Although it might provide temporary relief, rubbing your eyes can lead to thinning of the cornea and a risk of eye infections. Also, when you rub your allergy eyes, the itching releases more histamines, worsening the symptoms. When the itching becomes unbearable, grab the eye drops instead.
  6. Try other remedies
    Immunotherapy, steroids and mast cell stabilizers are examples of other treatments you can discuss with your doctor. At home remedies, like a cold washcloth or compress, cucumber slices or tea bags placed on your eyelids can be soothing. Changing your clothes when you get home and showering before bedtime are some other strategies.
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What to expect during an eye exam

Even if you don’t detect any problems with your vision, eye exams can identify potential problems and serious threats, like glaucoma and cataracts. Maybe you’ve never been to the eye doctor, or maybe it’s been awhile since you last had a comprehensive eye exam, so here’s a rundown of what to expect.

 

Family History

If you’re a new patient, you will probably fill out a form that includes questions about your medical and family history. You’ll be able to discuss this with the doctor along with any vision problems you’ve noticed.

Sharpness and clarity

Visual acuity tests measure the sharpness and clarity of your vision. The doctor will test how well you can see objects, from a distance and up close, by having you identify the smallest line of letters you can read clearly on an eye chart.

Cover test

How well your eyes work together is measured using the cover test. The doctor will have you stare at a distant object in the room while having you cover each eye alternately. You’ll repeat the test focusing on an object close to you. The doctor uses these tests to assess whether the uncovered eye must move to focus on the target.

Follow the object

To evaluate how well your eyes can follow a moving object and move between two separate objects, your doctor will conduct two tests. The doctor will have you follow the movement of a small light or other target with just your eyes. You’ll then be asked to focus on one object and move your eyes to another to test how well your eyes move between the two objects.

Retinoscopy

Early on in your examination, the doctor measures the eyes’ refraction using a retinoscope. The doctor shines a beam of light in the eye, then places a series of lenses in front of the eye, and observes the reflection off the retina. The way the light reflects determines if you can see clearly or if you’re farsighted, nearsighted or have astigmatism. This test provides the doctor with an estimate of your glasses or contact lens prescription.

Refraction

The doctor will use an instrument known as a phoropter to develop your final vision prescription. The phoropter is put in front of your eyes, and the doctor shows you a series of lenses. You can identify the ones that make your vision the sharpest.

Eye pressure

Two tests can be used to check the fluid pressure of the eyes to see if it’s in normal range: the “puff test,” or an applanation tonometer test. During the “puff test” the doctor uses a non-contact tonometer (NCT) to gently push a puff of air onto the eye. Or the doctor may put numbing drops in the eyes and touch the surface of each eye with an applanation tonometer.

These tests can help identify glaucoma, a pressure buildup in the eye, which can damage the optic nerve over time and cause vision loss.

Pupil dilation

The last step in a comprehensive eye exam is to dilate the pupil. In this test, known as the dilated fundus exam, eye drops are put into the eyes to increase the size of the pupil. The doctor uses a slit lamp and biomicroscope to examine the internal areas of the eye, including the optic nerve, blood vessels, retina, vitreous and macula. Pupils may remain dilated for three to four hours after this test.

It typically takes 30 minutes to an hour to complete a comprehensive eye exam.

After the exam, your doctor will discuss with you any corrective measures you may need and work with you to choose the method that best fits your lifestyle.

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3 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Oral Cancer, Plus Early Detection

For Oral Cancer Awareness Month, consider these three lifestyle behaviors that can dramatically influence your risk of developing oral cancer. Widely reported on, HPV (human papilloma virus) is another cause of oral cancer and the HPV vaccine is now gaining awareness. Also, early detection, sometimes by your dentist, is another factor to consider when raising your awareness of oral cancer.

Tobacco and alcohol increase your risk

Tobacco, alcohol and your diet are three major risk factors for developing oral cancer, and all three can be controlled by you. Oral cancer is linked to tobacco in approximately 90% of cases. Alcohol, or heavy drinking, is present in 7 out of 10 people who develop oral cancer. Consider your use of alcohol and tobacco. For women, seven drinks per week, and, for men, 14 drinks per week, is considered heavy drinking. The body’s ability to absorb nutrients is decreased when your alcohol consumption is at these high levels. Those nutrients may help prevent cancer. Also, when combined with tobacco, your alcohol use increases your risk of developing cancer.

Choose fruits and vegetables

The foods you choose to eat also play a role in your risk of developing oral cancer. Your risk will increase if you don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables. Choices like berries and broccoli added to your diet has been shown to reduce your risk of developing oral cancer.

Link between HPV and oral cancer

HPV is another cause of oral cancer. Cancers found in the back of the throat, called oropharyngeal cancers, are especially linked to HPV. There is an HPV vaccine and it is effective against the most common strains of HPV that cause oral cancer. The vaccine is most effective when given in the adolescent years of boys and girls.

When you visit the dentist

Some dentist and oral hygienists perform oral cancer screenings during a regular checkup. Talk with your dentist to learn more. Early detection of oral cancer can save your life. You can also do your own screenings at home. Mouth symptoms to look for include sores, red or white patches, persistent pain or numbness, lumps or rough spots, and problems chewing and swallowing.

Being aware of the risk factors and the steps you can take, and early detection, are good protections against oral cancer.

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Good dental health habits for all ages

From childhood to adulthood, your dental health habits are important. Starting good habits as a child will lead to healthy habits as an adult. At every stage, there are different dental issues to look for, so here’s a guide, from toddler to adult.

Toddlers

  • Even as babies, our teeth can get cavities, so daily cleaning is important from the beginning of our lives. Before babies have teeth, wiping their gums with a soft, clean cloth will help to get rid of unwanted bacteria. When teeth appear, use a toothbrush and toothpaste especially made for toddlers and children. Under the age of 3, use no more toothpaste than the size of a grain of rice, and for ages 3 to 6, use a pea-sized amount.
  • Your baby’s first dentist visit should be six months after a first tooth emerges or before their first birthday.
  • For toddlers, it’s helpful to make brushing fun and show them proper technique. Teaching and encouraging good habits early on can make a difference in the continuation of these habits in the future.

Children

  • Supervision of brushing is important up until the age of 8, approximately, and for flossing age 10.
  • Sealants protect against cavities and are an option for children. Discuss with your dentist.
  • This age group can be very active in sports, so mouth guards are important to protect against mouth injuries.

Adolescents

  • The risk of cavities can be high for adolescents because of diet, lack of care and immature enamel. Dental health habits are important to keep steady in this stage – brush twice a day for two minutes, floss daily and schedule regular dental appointments.
  • Keep healthy snacks available so it’s easier to choose the good rather than the bad choices.
  • Gingivitis, or gum disease, can often begin during adolescence. Look for signs like gum redness, swelling, bleeding and tenderness. If you have any of these symptoms, talk with your dentist.

Adults

  • As you keep up the habits you formed as a kid to brush and floss daily and visit the dentist regularly, avoid excessive amounts of alcohol and tobacco products to keep your teeth strong.
  • As we age, the nerves in our teeth shrink, so you might not notice a cavity developing. Keep up your regular visits to the dentist so any issues can be detected before they become more serious.
  • Oral cancer is most likely to occur after the age of 60. Symptoms include sores, red or white patches, lumps or rough spots, pain or numbness, and problems chewing or swallowing. Consult your dentist if you notice any signs.
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