Look out for your eyes, and look great doing it. We’re not talking about rocking a cool pair of shades, though that’s a smart move for year-round eye protection. Smart steps that protect your eyes from leading causes of vision loss – a risk for 61 million Americans – also can keep you all-around healthy.
Who should be paying attention? You. Half of the folks at risk for eye trouble haven’t seen an eye doc lately, and many others do things that put their vision at risk every day. So here’s the latest on guarding against top vision troubles and how looking out for your eyes can help you look and feel great, too.
1. Contact lens wearers: Clean up your act. If you’re among the 38 million Americans who wear contact lenses, poor cleaning, wearing them too long or in the wrong places – we mean locales, not somewhere other than the eyes – boost your risk for keratitis, an infection of the cornea caused by bacteria, viruses, fungi or, that’s right, an amoeba. Keratitis can cause inflammation, corneal ulcers and vision loss. It sends nearly a million Americans to the doctor or ER annually, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Focus on better eye health: Don’t wear your lenses when you shower, swim, go in a hot tub or sleep (unless your doc prescribes overnight wear). Wash your hands before handling your lenses. Always use fresh lens solution, never water, for cleaning and storage. Don’t top off the solution in your lens case; replace it with fresh stuff. And use fresh solution, not water, to clean your case. Dry it with a clean tissue, and store upside down with the caps off. Replace lenses as recommended; replace your storage case every three months.
2. Everybody: Eat for healthy eyes. Pile your plate with fruits and veggies. It can lower your risk for major vision-robbers like cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. AMD, an eye problem for 2 million Americans, damages central vision and can make it difficult to do everyday tasks.
Change how you see veggies: Make sure your food choices include plenty of green leafy veggies like spinach – a top source of eye-loving lutein and zeaxanthin, also found in almonds and mandarin oranges. Your body stores lutein and zeaxanthin in high concentrations in the lens of your eyes. There, these compounds work like natural sunglasses to deflect the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Bonus effect? A produce-packed diet also helps you stay slim, boosts your mood and protects against everything from heart disease and diabetes to some cancers.
3. Again, everybody: Add a vision-protecting supplement. Cut your risk for vision loss and advanced forms of AMD with a multivitamin or supplement.
Boost your eye-lovin’ nutrition: Take 900 mg of DHA daily and make sure your multivitamin or supplement contains 500 mg of vitamin C, 400 IU of vitamin E, 15 mg of beta-carotene, 80 mg of zinc and 2 mg copper. This formula helps people at high risk for advanced AMD slash their risk for this eye problem by 25 percent over six years.
4. Put out the fire: Kick those butts. Smoking doubles your risk for cataracts and diabetic vision problems and triples your odds for AMD. (See related stories, Pages 8-10)
Don’t let smoke get in your eyes: Log onto sharecare.com for help quitting. As for the all-around better health benefits, you know the litany, but remember that you’ll have a better chance of enjoying intimacy.
5. What’s up, Doc? See an ophthalmologist. Regular eye exams – including eye dilation so the doc can get a good look at the interior of your peepers – are the best way to spot vision problems early.
Doctor my eyes (with kudos to Jackson Browne): New research shows that many people at high risk for eyesight-dimming problems – like people with diabetes – aren’t getting the exams they need. So make an appointment today. You’ll feel confident knowing that your eyesight’s safe – a feeling that looks good, too.
Dr. Mehmet Oz is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Dr. Mike Roizen, a Buffalo native, is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic. Tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit sharecare.com.