Look out for your eyes – after all, they look out for you. Making healthy choices and undergoing regular eye exams can help preserve your sight. According to the National Eye Institute (NEI), about 37 million people 40 years and older in the U.S. suffer from vision impairments or eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts or glaucoma. In recognition of NEI’s Healthy Vision Month this May, UCLA Stein Eye and Doheny Eye Institutes are encouraging everyone to be proactive about their eye health by following these five simple steps:
- Learn your family history. In the case of hereditary eye diseases, looking at your past may help you plan for the future. For instance, if age-related macular degeneration runs in your family, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the disease, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO). Talking to your family members about what eye conditions they have — and relaying that information to your doctor — can help you get ahead of any eye-related issues.
- Eat healthy. One of the best things you can do for your eyes — and your overall health — is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. You can lower your risk of eye disease by following a nutritious diet, maintaining a healthy weight and not smoking. Consuming foods rich in vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids have shown to reduce the risk of developing certain eye diseases. Vitamin-rich foods that help protect eye health include dark leafy greens, cold-water fish and citrus fruits.
- Schedule regular eye exams. Early detection is the key to treating diseases that cause vision loss. Undergoing a dilated eye exam is the best way to discover eye diseases, many of which have no early warning signs. The AAO recommends adults receive a baseline comprehensive eye exam with an ophthalmologist before the age of 40, when age-related eye changes often start. Those who are 65 and older should receive an eye exam every one to two years. Individuals with chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, may be at higher risk of developing certain eye conditions and should discuss more frequent eye exams with their primary-care physicians.
- Get some shades. Many people wear sunglasses for comfort and fashion, but here's another reason: to protect the health of your eyes. Exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can cause damage to your eyes and, over time, lead to vision loss from cataracts or macular degeneration. While many sunglasses advertise that they “block UV radiation,” the AAO recommends only purchasing sunglasses that provide 99 to 100 percent UV-blockage.
- Protect yourself. Giving your eyes a little added protection can make a big difference. Eye injuries affect more than 2.5 million people every year, yet 90 percent of these injuries are preventable with the use of appropriate eyewear. Wearing protective eyewear when engaged in activities that can cause eye injuries — such as home repair, gardening and sports — can keep you out of the emergency room.
Learn more about how to keep your eyes healthy and find an ophthalmologist by visiting uclahealth.org/eye.
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