So much of what we do depends on sight, and yet most of us think about it so rarely. However, 4 million Americans over age 65 are living with serious vision loss or blindness, and that number is growing. Eye health is important to them, and it should be to you, too. You can’t always prevent vision loss entirely, but there are simple steps you can take to help protect your vision as you get older:
- Know your family history. Many eye diseases are at least partly hereditary. Having a parent, or an aunt or uncle, with glaucoma, macular degeneration, type 2 diabetes, or other condition that affects vision could indicate that you’re more likely to have it too, so be on alert.
- Get regular eye exams, at least once every two years—once a year if you’re elderly. That means not only a visual acuity test where you read letters off a chart; you need to get a full workup, with dilation, air puffs, and all. Eye diseases often have no symptoms until they’re quite far along, and early detection with an eye exam can help you get effective treatment before its too late.
- Don’t smoke, or quit. Cataracts and age-related macular degeneration are only the most common causes of vision loss that are linked with tobacco smoking. Even former smokers are at heightened risk for AMD, though less so than those who’ve never quit.
- Keep your eyes safe. Proper eye protection for working with sharp items or activities such as woodworking or cleaning that produce fine particles or noxious fumes can help keep you from being one of the nearly 3 million people who suffer eye injuries annually. Watching out for falling hazards is another important step you can take.
- Eat right. Some nutrients, such as vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids help prevent macular degeneration. A healthy diet can also help you avoid type 2 diabetes, a disease that often affects eyesight.
By following these tips, you can help prevent vision loss as you get older. Losing your vision is not a natural part of aging; it’s an effect of preventable illnesses. It’s up to you to save your sight.