Ignoring Your Eye Health? Ways to Get It In Focus
For a lot of us, the health of our eyes isn’t always as top of mind as other aspects of our wellbeing. We might get a cursory eye exam as part of our annual checkup. If we wear contact lenses or glasses, it means we have to schedule a regular optometrist appointment to get prescriptions updated and new frames or supplies ordered. Much of the time – unless there’s a problem – how we’re supporting our vision typically doesn’t merit more than a passing glance. But it should.
As people age, conditions like cataracts, macular degeneration and glaucoma become more of a concern. But the array of vision problems and eye diseases go beyond issues that develop with advancing years. In the United States, an estimated 21 million people have some sort of vision problem, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That number is expected to increase over the next decade, in part because of the rise in certain diseases that can cause vision issues.
For example, Type 2 Diabetes is on the rise across the country. People with diabetes are more likely to experience blurry vision, a condition that could morph into diabetic retinopathy and other problems. An uptick in diabetes cases is part of what is expected to double the number of people with visual impairments in the U.S. by 2030.
Are you at higher risk for eye problems? Some factors put people at a greater risk for developing vision issues. The National Eye Institute suggests weighing these factors, and talking to your health care provider if you are concerned that any of these raise a red flag:
- Being overweight
- Being Black, Hispanic or Native American
- Having a family history of eye disease
- Having diabetes
- Having high blood pressure
Getting a dilated eye exam is the easiest way to check your eye health. It provides a baseline to measure against future exams and can spot issues in the early stages. Many vision problems begin with symptoms that can only be detected in a professional exam.
Prevention and lifestyle choices. A lot of conditions that can lead to vision issues can be prevented through focusing on a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle choices, health care providers say. Here are some tips:
If you smoke, try hard to quit: Smoking increases your risk of developing conditions like cataracts and macular degeneration.
Get committed – or stay committed – to your exercise routine: Working up a sweat on a regular basis can keep at bay health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure, which can lead to vision problems.
Make sure your diet is good for your eyes: The food on your fork can help keep your vision healthy. Pick lots of leafy greens, carrots and sweet potatoes. If you eat fish, zero in on salmon and tuna, types that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
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