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Nutrition And The Eye

There’s no substitute for the quality of life good vision offers.  Adding certain nutrients to your diet every day – either through foods or supplements – can help save your vision.  Researchers have linked eye-friendly nutrients such as lutein/zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, fish oil and zinc to reducing the risk of certain eye diseases, including dry eye, macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and cataract formation.

Which one of your five senses would you least like to lose? For most people, it is their vision. The Mission of North Shore Eye Health and Wellness revolves around not only diagnosing, treating, and managing ocular disease, but also striving to PREVENT sight threatening conditions. Ocular Nutritional Analysis and Counseling is simply another tool that we offer to help maintain your level of visual performance throughout your lifespan.

Increasingly, researchers are finding a link between good nutrition and maintaining healthy eyes. Researchers now believe that age-related eye diseases are caused by the body's exposure to ultraviolet light and other environmental factors such as smoke, pollutants, and various chemicals. We now know that diseases like macular degeneration are caused by cumulative exposure to UV over a lifetime. Cataracts are impacted by UV exposure as well as smoking and poor diet. Many of these eye diseases can be slowed (or in some cases reversed) by the intake of certain vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables or taken in supplement form.

Here are some common eye diseases and the role that nutrition could play in the prevention of these diseases.

Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD)
Multiple risk factors have been implicated as causes of ARMD. They include age, hereditary factors, inflammation, hormones, environmental factors, and lifestyle factors such as diet, smoking, prolonged exposure to sunlight, etc. ARMD is the leading cause of irreversible visual loss after age 50. Symptoms include loss of central vision, distortion of images, loss of contrast, and diminished depth perception. Numerous studies show that foods rich in carotenoids, particularly green leafy vegetables, reduced the risk of getting this devastating sight-stealing disease.

Dry Eye Syndrome
Dry Eye Syndrome is the number one ocular disease in most adults in the United States, though most people have no idea that they have this condition. Patients report red irritated eyes or they feel like they have something in the eye all the time. Others report increased light sensitivity, blurred vision or excessive tearing. Many dry eye studies have been conducted and we know that Vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids like fish oil complex can have a significant positive impact on dry eye disease.

Glaucoma refers to a group of diseases characterized by a progressive loss of the nerve tissue that brings electrical signals from the eye to the brain. While many forms are related to increased eye pressure, glaucoma is also affected by blood flow to the nerves in the back of the eye. Thus, dietary supplements that help improve circulation such as omega-3 fatty acids and ginkgo biloba have been shown to be helpful in controlling the progression of the disease.

In the United States, up to 50% of persons over the age of 65 have some form of cataract. Cataracts are the oxidation or damage of certain types of proteins within the human lens. We now know that these changes are due to UV exposure, the inability of the body’s natural restorative systems to correct these changes, or a combination of both. There have been many studies that have shown that a diet high in antioxidants, especially Vitamins A, C, and E, as well as other elements such as carotenoids (lutein and zeaxanthin) have protective and in some cases restorative effects. This is especially true of Vitamin C. One study showed that individuals who do not eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day are 5 to 13 times more likely to develop cataracts.

Hypertension, Diabetes and Various Vascular Diseases
Diabetes, hypertension, and other vascular disease such as high cholesterol and arteriosclerosis can have detrimental effects on all parts of the body. The eye is no exception. Like many diseases, the time to control these diseases is to prevent or control them in the early phases. Once significant damage is done, there is a limitation to what nutrition, medication, or surgery can do. In short, these vascular diseases can be controlled by a healthy diet and exercise. You have to take control of your life, your body and your health. The keys are simple: decrease excess body fat by decreasing intake of simple carbohydrates and sugars, limit your intake of unsaturated fats caffeinated drinks, and quit smoking. Increase your intake of good lean protein, healthy fats, complex carbohydrates, and get your heart rate above couch potato status for 20 minutes a day.

Let the Doctors at North Shore Eye Health and Wellness assist with reviewing your ocular nutrition and making personalized, individual recommendations to help prolong your ocular health and visual performance.

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