Lifestyle Modification & Eye Care Nutritionals Can Benefit Ocular Health
Regular exercise can help protect you from heart disease, stroke & hypertension. Physical activity reduces body fat and will prevent or help control non-insulin dependent diabetes. Both hypertension and diabetes increase your risk of AMD.
Experts generally recommend 20+ min of aerobic activity three times a week along with some type of muscle strengthening activity and stretching two times a week. If you’ve been inactive for a while, start with walking at a comfortable pace or something less strenuous until you become more fit. Please consult your Primary Care Physician (PCP) before you start anything strenuous or consider hiring a personal trainer. Exercise can also improve your mood and ability to handle stress.
When physical activity is combined with proper nutrition, it helps control weight and obesity.
BMI (Body Mass Index) is an estimate of your body fat. Generally, the higher your BMI the higher your risk for hypertension, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
The number one modifiable risk factor for age related macular degeneration (AMD) is smoking. Current smokers, depending on the study, may have 2-3X more risk of developing AMD.
Genetics is also a strong risk factor. There have been 6-8 genes identified that affects risk. If you smoke and you have a high risk gene, you could be 20-30X more more likely to develop AMD.
Wear The Right Sunglasses
Besides adopting a healthy lifestyle, you can also protect your eyes by avoiding intense ultraviolet (UV) light. UV intensity in the Denver area is much greater than at sea level due to the altitude. A good quality pair of polarized sunglasses is a smart investment in your long-term ocular health.
Schedule an annual comprehensive eye exam, which is necessary for maintaining your eye health as you grow older. Your eyes are a good indicator of your general health. If eye problems and chronic diseases are detected early enough, appropriate treatment may prevent permanent vision loss. This is especially true with glaucoma and wet AMD.
The Denver Eye Care professionals at Vision Care Specialists expect a significant increase in age related eye disease over the next 20-30 years due an aging baby boomer generation. This demographic change, along with the changes that have occurred in our diet over the last 40 years, will lead to more Americans developing diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, autoimmune diseases & obesity. These systemic diseases increase the risk for ocular diseases such as age related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, dry eye, and hypertensive and diabetic retinopathy. Therefore, disease prevention should become more of a focus during your routine eye care exams.
We know that age and genetics are risk factors for certain diseases. Unfortunately, we are unable to change those two variables. We are, however, able to modify our lifestyle to decrease our risk for certain diseases. Our lifestyle, which includes diet and exercise, should be geared towards decreasing our body’s inflammation and improving our cardiovascular health.
- Increase your intake of omega-3 essential fatty acids (EFA) to lower your body’s inflammation. EFAs are required by the human body in order to function properly and must come from our diet. The proper balance recommendation by the Institute of Medicine is 4:1 – four times as many Omega-6 EFAs as Omega-3 EFAs. The typical American diet is too high in omega-6 EFAs and often our ratio is 20:1.
- Omega-3 EFAs can be found in salmon, sardines, cod liver oil, tuna, flaxseed and walnuts. These EFAs are antiinflammatory.
- Healthy omega-6 EFAs can be found in borage and primrose oil.
- Unhealthy omega-6 EFAs are abundant in modern diets. Refined vegetable oils, such as soy oil, are used in processed & fast foods. Soybean oil alone is now so common that it supplies up to 20% of the calories in the typical Western diet.
- Decrease your intake of foods high in saturated & trans fats. Trans fats are found in margarine, packaged foods, soups, fast foods, frozen pies & pizza, donuts, cakes, cookies and candy. These “bad fats” increase inflammation in your body thus increasing your risk for chronic vascular disease.
- Increase your intake of complex carbohydrates such as vegtables, nuts, grains and beans are necessary for fiber and stable glucose / insulin levels.
- Decrease your intake of foods that contain high fructose corn syrup.
- Increase your intake of colorful fruits and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, collard greens, broccoli & kale. These dark green leaves contain yellow pigments (lutein & Xeaxanthin) that offer protection of various tissues in the eye including the macula, retina and lens. Other sources of these two pigments can be found in corn, eggs and supplements. Fruits and non-starchy vegetables cause a more limited rise in blood sugar while providing fiber for intestinal health. Fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of antioxidants and minerals.
- Decrease your intake of refined grains, starches and sugars. http://downsizingyourbody.com/
- Increase your intake of water and decrease your intake of soda and other sugary drinks. Stay hydrated!
- Supplement your diet with a full spectrum nutritional supplement that offers a guaranteed daily consumption of anti-oxidants, B vitamins, Vitamin D, eye specific carotenoids (lutein, zeaxanthin and lycopene), and minerals. If you are pregnant or nursing or are taking blood thinners (anti-coagulants), speak to your doctor before using any type of nutritional supplement. A nutritional supplement is not intended to replace a balanced diet, but to compliment it. A few specifics:
- Vitamin C: promotes healthy capillaries, supports ocular blood vessel health, decreases risk of AMD and cataracts. The half life of Vitamin C in the bloodstream is about 30 min. In other words, if you take 1000mg then only 500 mg remains in the blood stream after 30 min. Within 6 hours, there is virtually nothing left. It is better to get 500 mg twice daily than 1000 mg once daily.
- Lutein (10mg) with Zeazanthin (2 mg): these are carotenoids that protect and maintain healthy cells in the eye especially in the macula.
- Vitamin E: 200-400 IU – found in wheat germ and most seeds and nuts.
- DHA /EPA Omega-3 EFA: 2000-3000 mg of fish oils -preferably triglyceride form. Supports cardiovascular, immune and nervous system. Decreases inflammation. Improves dry eye syndrome when combined with certain omega-6 EFAs.
- Vitamin D: Check your level with your PCP. If your test results are under 30, then you are deficient. Your levels tend to be higher in the late summer months and lower in the winter months because our main source comes from exposing our skin to sunlight. Researchers have found over 2500 genes are activated by Vitamin D and significantly influence 229 of them. Some of these genes are associated with MS, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s disease and Type 1 diabetes as well as some cancers. http://www.vitamindcouncil.org/
- Zinc: an essential trace mineral found in red meat, poultry, oysters and breakfast cereals. Evidence suggests that taken with other essential nutrients this mineral can slow progression of AMD.
- If you plan to begin a regimen of eye care supplements, be sure to discuss this with one of our Colorado eye doctors. Taking too much of certain vision supplements can cause problems, especially if you are taking prescription medications for health problems.
- Research literature that can help: We suggest Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating http://www.amazon.com/Eat-Drink-Be-Healthy-Harvard/dp/0743266420
There is no fool proof way to prevent disease and nutritional supplements are not a cure for eye disease nor will they restore vision that is already lost. However, good nutrition is vital to maintaining your eye health and is an important part of the LifeFit™ Approach.
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