Cataract Prevention: Diet and Lifestyle Tips
Cataracts are one of the most common conditions that affect vision for older people. In fact, they are so common that by the age of 80, more than half of all Americans have either had cataract removal surgery or are getting ready to do so. These age-related cataracts, called primary cataracts, are the most common type, but there are others including secondary cataracts, traumatic cataracts, congenital cataracts and radiation cataracts. Since some of these cannot be prevented, we will focus on primary cataracts and the ways that you can keep them at bay for as long as possible.
Signs of a cataract
You might have a cataract if you have cloudy, blurry vision or colors seem paler, washed out or faded. Other symptoms include glare, especially from headlights, lamps or the sun, or a halo affect around light sources. You may have double or multiple images in one eye or in both, and your night vision might be getting progressively worse. Your eyeglass prescription may change frequently. Keep in mind that these and similar symptoms can also be caused by other eye problems, including some which are more serious. If you are experiencing any vision problems, you should see your eye doctor as soon as possible for a complete eye exam. Be sure to mention any medications, supplements or natural remedies you may be taking, as these can also cause vision problems as side effects.
If you do have a cataract, you will get all of the information that you need about the condition and what you should do about it. Eventually, you might need to have surgery to remove the cataract.
Help prevent cataracts with lifestyle changes
There are a number of things you can do to help prevent or slow the progression of cataracts:
- See your eye doctor regularly and don't skip any follow-up visits that he or she recommends.
- Wear sunglasses whenever you go outside. Those who do not wear sunglasses on a regular basis may increase their risk of cataracts later in life as much as 60%.
- Be especially careful in the sun if you use the herbal supplement St. Johnís wort or take other supplements or medications which increase sensitivity to light.
- Do not smoke.
- If you must drink alcohol, do so only in moderation. Those who drink every day increase their cataract risk by more than 30% more over those who drink once a month or less.
- If you are diabetic, keep your blood sugar under tight control.
Must-have foods for cataract prevention
Eating the right foods can reduce your chance of getting cataracts and can slow their progression. These include:
- Foods rich in vitamins A and C such as apricots, carrots, spinach, strawberries and tomatoes. Eat lots of brightly colored fruits and vegetables because they contain antioxidants, which fight free radicals.
- Add in plenty of vitamin E and you will cut your cataract risk in half. Good sources include wheat germ, whole grain bread, brown rice and other seeds, nuts and grains. Vitamin E is also found in canola oil.
- Make sure you get plenty of the big Bs: niacin, thiamin and riboflavin. Good sources for these include fortified cereal and mushrooms.
- Protein deficiency also increases your cataract risk, so make sure there is enough in your diet. Good sources of protein include fish, turkey or chicken breasts and low fat dairy products. In addition, beans, rice and other legumes are excellent protein sources.
Foods to avoid
- Saturated fats are #1 on the list of things to avoid when you are trying to prevent cataracts. Sources of saturated fats include butter, lard and coconut oil.
- Salt is a problem as well and should be reduced as much as possible. As a substitute, try seasoning food with other herbs, such as turmeric, which is popular in Indian dishes.
While cataracts are an inevitable aging change of our eyes, maintaining a healthy diet which include plenty of fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, taking care of other health issues, avoid smoking and wearing sunglasses are all ways you can help slow down the progression of cataracts.
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