The number of Americans suffering from visual impairment or blindness was 4.2 million in 2015 and is expected to double over the next several decades, the National Eye Institute announced last week. The Institute is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The largest group affected: white women, in part because they live longer and have more years to develop cataracts and macular degeneration.
What can you do to cut your odds of suffering from cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and macular degeneration?
Don’t smoke. Smoking increases the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
Lose excess weight. People who are overweight have a higher risk of cataracts.
Eat lutein-rich foods. Lutein may help prevent cataracts and improve visual acuity. “Getting lutein and and its twin zeaxanthin
from a plant-rich diet with lots of green leafy vegetables is one of the best ways to preserve your eye health,” says Julie Mares, a vision researcher at the University of Wisconsin.
Be physically active. Among 52,660 Swedish women and men who were monitored for 12 years, those who walked or biked for more than an hour a day had a 12 percent lower risk of cataracts than those who hardly exercised.
Keep blood sugar and blood pressure under control. Weight loss, exercise, a healthy diet, and (if necessary) medication to lower blood sugar and blood pressure can prevent diabetic retinopathy.
Wear sunglasses. Get sunglasses that provide 100 percent protection against UV-A and UV-B radiation. Oversized or wraparound glasses are best. Don’t worry about the color of the lens.
Get your eyes checked. Every year or two, get an exam with your eyes dilated (so the doctor can see more of your retina, optic nerve, and lens).
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