You might think that losing your vision is inevitable because there’s certainly a stereotype of half-blind elderly people squinting to see what’s right in front of them. When it comes down to it, does your vision have to decline when you age? It’s common to think of old people wearing glasses, but does it really have to be that way?
Well, the answer is both yes and no.
The unfortunate reality is that some vision problems are largely inevitable as we age.
Presbyopia, for example, is caused by age-related changes to the proteins within your eye that make the lens harder and less elastic. The muscle fibers surrounding the lens also change over time, and all of these changes make it difficult for the eye to focus on close objects.
Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in people over forty, occurring when proteins in the eye clump together and cloud the lens. Today, however, cataract surgery is very effective, so you aren’t doomed to lose your vision just because you have cataracts. Other common diseases related to aging include age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
The good news about all of these age-related issues is that if you work to protect your vision when you’re young, you can reduce your risk of succumbing to them. No matter what your age may be, it’s important to live a lifestyle that’s healthy for your eyes.
A healthy diet is a good place to start. Eating well is important for every system in your body, and this includes your eyes. To keep your eyes healthy, keep your consumption of saturated fat and sugar low while packing your diet with healthy foods like greens and fruits. Eat fresh, colorful fruits and vegetables, which are full of antioxidants, and choose whole grains over refined flours. Eat healthy fats, found in fish, flaxseed oil, walnuts, and canola oil, and choose good sources of protein, like fish, lean meats, nuts, legumes, and eggs. Keep your sodium intake low, and make sure to stay hydrated, drinking water, low-fat dairy products, 100 percent vegetable and fruit choices, and non-caffeinated herbal teas.
Don’t smoke, and if you do smoke, quit. Smoking raises your risk of conditions like uveitis, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and diabetic retinopathy. Fortunately, when you quit smoking, no matter your age, you reduce your risk of these vision-threatening conditions.
Maintain a healthy weight to stave off a number of age-related issues. Regular exercise and a healthy diet can help you maintain your weight, which reduces your risk of AMD. As an added benefit, it also lowers your risk of conditions that contribute to eye issues, like diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.
Wear sunglasses, even in the winter, any time you’re outside during the day. Ultraviolet rays are extremely damaging to your eyes, and even on cloudy days, UV rays can penetrate cloud cover. Good quality sunglasses are your best defense against sun damage to your eyes.
Have regular eye exams. Many of the eye problems that plague older people are easiest to treat if they’re caught in the early stages. That’s why it’s so important to see your eye doctor regularly, especially as you get older.
One of the best ways to protect your eyes from the stress of aging is to find an eye doctor you can trust to help you take care of them.
This post originally appeared on All About Vision.