Nutrition For Healthy Eyes In The Senior Years:
As time passes, our bodily functions change in many ways, including our eyesight. Vision loss in the elderly due to eye disease is a major health care issue. By age 65, one person in three has some form of eye disease. Many causes exist for eye diseases.. Sometimes this may relate to other medical conditions and some are inherited, or there may be no known cause. Although obvious, age is the biggest risk factor in age-related eye disease.
Other risk factors include smoking, long-term poorly-controlled diabetes, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol levels, cardiovascular disease, prolonged sunlight exposure and medications like steroids.
Common Eye Conditions: Cataracts develop when the lens inside the eye becomes cloudy, gradually impairing vision. The change may be so slow that no treatment is necessary. If the cataract advances to interfere with lifestyle, the lens can be surgically removed and replaced with a plastic substitute. % of population
Glaucoma is caused by a pressure imbalance or fluid drainage problems in the eye. This results in optic nerve damage and loss of peripheral vision. Early treatment – drops or surgery – can stop its progression, but unfortunately most people don’t notice any symptoms until permanent damage has occurred.
Another leading cause of blindness results from retinal deterioration. The retina is a thin lining of cells, located at the back of the eye that receives visual images and passes them on to the brain. Macular degeneration occurs when the central part of the retina, the macula, is damaged either slowly or very quickly. Central vision may become blurred or distorted with dark spots. Diabetic retinopathy involves serious changes in the retina, including bleeding and swelling.
Focus On Diet: The brain and eyes make up less than 2% of the total body weight, yet they use 25% of the body’s nutritional intake. It is well-researched that a good diet and supplementation can help preserve general health, visual health and even help reverse eye disease. As we age, our digestive system slows and we do not assimilate nutrients as efficiently. We may not make proper food choices, further leading to malnutrition and general health problems.
Eat lots of high quality, preferably organic, fresh, unprocessed raw fruits and vegetables. Eat a variety of fresh yellow orange fruits and vegetables and green leafy vegetables. Examples include carrots, oranges, kiwi fruits, dried apricots, spinach, tomatoes, capsicum, tropical fruit, dark berries including blueberries, legumes, nuts, seeds, sprouts, parsley and oily fish such as salmon, sardines, herring and mackerel. Nuts, seeds and eggs are also good sources.
Cut down on caffeine, alcohol, salt and most importantly, limit refined sugar- avoid white flour products, white sugar, white rice, fatty and fried foods, margarine, artificial flavours and colours. Drink adequate water – at least 8 glasses of filtered water a day. Water is essential to clear waste from the blood, kidneys and bowel.
Minimise your intake of animal fats e.g. Meats and dairy products, Barbecued meats, processed meats, margarine, vegetable oils. Only olive oil should be used. Avoid trans-fats, which may contribute to macular degeneration. Trans-fats, or hydrogenated fats may interfere with omega-3’s in your body. These are found in many processed and baked foods, including pastries, biscuits and fried foods like chips, doughnuts.
Supplementing For Vision: Oxygen is essential for the human body, but it can also be harmful. Oxygen can produce “free-radicals” which are highly reactive, toxic molecules that bind to and destroy cells, cause degeneration and contribute to the aging process. Supplementing our diets with vitamins and antioxidants can make free radicals inactive.
Antioxidants are nutrients which decrease the risk of cell damage caused by free radicals. They are considered to be helpful in a whole range of diseases, including heart disease, stroke, cancer etc.
Supplements may be used when diet does not include enough fresh fruit and vegetables or if the nutrients they contain are not adequately absorbed by your body. However, experts agree that taking supplements is not a substitute for a healthy diet. In general for ageing eyes, a good quality, high potency multi vitamin mineral formula with added antioxidants and essential fatty acids are most important. Consider vitamins A, B, C and E, and the minerals zinc and selenium. Don’t self-prescribe – see a natural heath professional for a personalised program.
Current studies indicate that:
- Flavinoids – dark berries like Anthocyanidins Proanthocyanidins are found in red wine
- Phytonutrients are crucial for healthy eyes.
Bilberry: An extract from European blueberries contains flavinoids and anthocyanidins. It has historically has been used in eye conditions, such as glaucoma, cataracts, MD, diabetic retinopathy and RP. It helps blood flow to eye, has a powerful antioxidant action to strengthen capillaries that carry nutrients to cells and a collagen stabilizing activity.
Alphalipoic Acid: A vitamin-like antioxidant, it is a key component in the productions of cellular energy and recycles and enhances the effects of other nutrients. This is a unique supplement because it is both water and fat soluble.
Carotenoids: They are found naturally in vegetables and fruit. An example is lutein, a yellowish pigment is one of more than 600 carotenoid pigments. Lutein can be found in yellow capsicum, tropical fruits like mango, bilberries and green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, chard and broccoli, egg yolks, brussel sprouts. Equally as important, zeaxanthin can be found in orange capsicum, broccoli, corn, lettuce (not iceberg), spinach, tangerines, oranges and eggs. Xanthophylls, yellow pigments found with chlorophyll in the leaves of plants. It is important to note that lutein is an oil-soluble nutrient, and if you merely consume the above vegetables without some oil or butter you can’t absorb the lutein. If you are consuming vegetable juice, it would be wise to use cod liver oil in the juice to maximize your lutein absorption, as well as the absorption of other important nutrients like vitamin K.
Bioflavinoids: These are found in rosehip and other fruits, and are part of the vitamin C complex. Known as vitamin P, it improves capillary strength, lowers blood pressure, helps collagen formation, tissue repair, anti-inflammatory properties and have antioxidants. Examples are rutin, hesperidin and quercetin.
Glutathione: This is protein inside cells which acts as a potent antioxidant and is involved in detoxification – it binds to toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides and solvents.
Grape Seed Extract: This is a natural plant extract composed of proanthocyanidins. These are powerful antioxidants which also assist in circulation. It remains in the body for 3 days and is 20 times more potent than vitamin C and 50 times per potent than vitamin E. A similar extract, PINEBARK EXTRACT- also containing proanthocyanidins, has an active ingredient is called pycnogenol, an entire complex of proanthocyanidins.
Ginko: A leaf used to treat memory, narrowing arteries, MS, tinnitus, asthma, bronchitis, vascular function – caution because it can increase bleeding. Functions –
CoQ10: This is found in every cell of the body and is involved with energy production in cells, ATP. It has powerful antioxidant properties. It is good for diabetes, heart problems, and blood pressure problems.
Omega 3 Cod Liver Oil: Provides vitamin A and D – huge range of benefits from diabetes, stroke, brain function, and cardiovascular disease. Fish oils are useful for heart, depression, brain function etc. Flaxseed Oil is an alternative for vegetarians but not as bioavailable. DHA in fish oils is concentrated in the eye’s retina and has been found to be particularly useful in preventing macular degeneration. Make sure your supplement has any contaminants like mercury removed.
High Antioxidant Juices – Goji Juice: Goji berries contain amino acids and polysaccharides that help cells communicate. They are being touted as an elixir for wellbeing, energy and longevity. Mangosteen juice, from exotic fruits originating in South East Asia have active ingredients Xanthones and Mangostins, being researched for their ability to improve immune system and for their antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Healthy And Active Lifestyle: A program of regular exercise can assist in slowing down or preventing degenerative conditions that affect seniors. Activity will increase your strength and stamina as well as improving cardiovascular and respiratory health. This will have an indirect benefit on vision. Aim for a healthy weight – try and do aerobic exercise outside 3 times a week for 40min each time
Make sure you drink 6-8 glasses of water per day, more if you drink coffee or tea.
Walks in nature, gardening, tai chi, yoga are also great stress-reducers and refresh and replenish the bond, mind and eyes. Seek prompt advice for any changes in your eyesight – successful treatment depends on early diagnosis. And remember, prevention is the best cure! Safeguard your sight with annual examinations by an optometrist, especially if there is a family history of eye problems.