Well, what do you know, how did I miss the announcement of May being Healthy Vision Month? Maybe because every day to an eye doctor seems like healthy vision day where I feel like Bill Murray in the movie Groundhog Day who re-lives the same sequence of events over and over. Thankfully though, I thoroughly enjoy what I’m doing and experience something new with every patient encounter.
One of the hardest things to see is a patient who comes in with an irreversible or difficult to treat eye/vision problem that they had tried to live with for too long. And because they waited so long to get the eyes checked, there are only very limited options available to help.
So in recognition of the last week of Healthy Vision Month, I thought I’d give some recommendations to help you maintain your own healthy vision.
1) Schedule annual eye exams. We check the health of your eyes inside and out and look for problems that you would never have a clue could be happening to you. You don’t have to be “old” to start losing peripheral vision from glaucoma or develop a cancerous tumor in the back of your eye. Early detection and treatment of problems can help save your sight and possibly your life.
2) Eat your fruits and veggies. Especially leafy green veggies like broccoli and spinach to get the essential eye nutrients we all need. If you don’t, take a supplement with lutein.
3) Eat 2 to 3 servings of fish each week to get omega-3 fatty acids in to your system. Known as a natural anti-inflammatory, it can help with dry eyes and early signs of macular degeneration.
4) If you’re like me and don’t eat enough fruits, veggies and/or fish, I’ve started recommending a new product from Alcon called I-Caps Lutein & Omega-3. Available over the counter and taken only once daily, it can be the perfect substitute for the 1 a day vitamin that many of us take (or at least that many of us have sitting on the counter).
5) Mix in some green tea instead of Coke Zero. The bottle of green tea I’m drinking right now only has 34 calories per 8 ounce serving. A study published last year in the American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry concludes that phytochemicals found in green tea actually penetrate deeply into tissues of the eyes. This is the first report to document how the lens, retina and other parts of the eye absorb the powerful antioxidants and disease-fighting substances found in green tea. It strongly raises the possibility that green tea can prevent glaucoma as well as other eye diseases and conditions.
6) Eat more beef jerky. Just kidding, I love beef jerky. And I have learned how to make it myself using top cut sirloin and my food dehydrator. Munching on it right now actually. However, there are conflicting opinions on the effects of red meat in relation to eye health. JoyBauer.com (nutrition expert) writes that both niacin and zinc found in red meat may help protect against vision problems. Niacin guards against cataracts, while zinc helps prevent and treat macular degeneration. But scientists report in the May American Journal of Clinical Nutrition that there appears to be an elevated risk of cataract development in those that eat the highest amount of red meat. Oh well, not enough to stop me from enjoying my home made beef jerky though.
So do I practice what I’m preaching? The beef jerky debate aside, I have virtually eliminated my daily 20 ounce bottle of Coke Zero for Honest Tea’s varieties of green or white tea. I keep the Alcon multi-vitamins handy, and try to remember to take one at least every other day. My intake of vegetables has gone from virtually a non-existent intake as well. Since right around Easter Sunday, I have incorporated asparagus, spinach, mushrooms, carrots, parsnips and broccoli in to my daily menu for the truly the first time in my 39 years of life. Although I’m not sitting here craving a stalk of asparagus, I have to admit that these veggies are not near as bad as I would have imagined. As my Dad always said…you can’t really taste them anyway. And no, I’m not slathering them in butter or cheese either. For me, it’s just been a matter of getting over the whole texture part of it, for the good of my eyes and all that. And by mixing these in and drastically reducing breads, dairy and pastas since Easter Sunday, I have lost about 8 pounds around the mid-section with very limited exercise.
But back to the subject of you and your eyes…
Awareness is the key. I envision a future in which all my patients over 50 years old have practically disease-free eyes. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could get our patients to be more proactive with these recommendations so that we won’t have to watch them slowly develop common eye problems like macular degeneration or diabetic retinopathy? No doubt easier said than done, but not impossible. It adds a couple of minutes to the exam, but could save us both lots of time down the road where I might be explaining vision loss that could have been prevented.
Do you take supplements with Lutein or Omega-3s? Let me know which ones you prefer?
- Good Foods for Eye Health (webmd.com)
- Lots of info at the Eyeworks website (eyeworks.com)
- Can you eat your way to better sight? (telegraph.co.uk)
- HealthWatch: Vitamin D Might Help Prevent Macular Degeneration (newyork.cbslocal.com)
- Omega-3 fatty acid intake linked with reduced risk of age-related macular degeneration in women (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)