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Experts share tips for protecting sight

It’s commonplace for many people to take steps to fight common signs of aging. Americans spend billions of dollars each year to improve the way they look.  Far too many, however, forget about the steps they should take to protect how they see.An estimated 43 million Americans will face vision loss or blindness from age-related eye diseases by 2020.

 During September, the National Eye Institute and the Academy are recognizing Healthy Aging Month by bringing eye-healthy tips to the public.

“Adults should know that recent advances in eye care have made it more possible than ever to have good vision in your senior years,” said Rebecca Taylor, M.D., clinical spokesperson for the Academy and comprehensive ophthalmologist. “But, to achieve this, you’ll need to adopt some healthy habits early on, and see an ophthalmologist at points along the way.”

Ophthalmologists, the medical doctors who treat eye diseases and conditions, recommend that adults following these sight-saving habits:

It’s all about the baseline
Get a baseline comprehensive eye exam, ideally when you turn 40. This is when age-related eye changes often begin to occur. During this medical eye exam, your ophthalmologist will check more than how well you see. He or she will also check for signs of common age-related eye diseases such as glaucoma and macular degeneration. None of these conditions have noticeable symptoms early on. If a disease is identified, an ophthalmologist can track it and provide treatment to help prevent it from getting worse. 

After the baseline exam, adults should have comprehensive exams: 

  • Every two to four years until age 54
  • Every one to three years until age 64 
  • By age 65, every one to two years, or as recommended by your ophthalmologist.

Keep an Eye on Family History

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD), glaucoma, cataracts and other eye diseases can be inherited. If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. A family history of glaucoma increases your chances by four to nine times. So, you should inform your eye care professional about your family's eye health history. This can help him or her make an earlier diagnosis and save your vision. 

No more Butts
Quitting smoking is one of the best investments you can make in your eye health. Smoking increases your risk for developing cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It also raises the risks for cardiovascular diseases that indirectly influence your eyes’ health. And, as an irritant, it worsens dry eye. The American Cancer Society has resources to help people who want to quit: www.cancer.org

Eat for Your Eyes
Studies have shown that some foods are good for eye health as well as general health. These foods include citrus fruits, vegetable oils, dark green leafy greens and cold water fish such as salmon and tuna. So pile them on!

Know (and Control) Your Numbers 

High blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose (sugar) levels all increase the risk of vision loss from an eye disease. Watch these numbers and try to keep them under control. This will not only help your eyes, but also your overall health.

To learn more about how to care for aging eyes, visit the Academy’s public information website at www.eyesmart.org. Seniors concerned about the cost of caring for their eyes may be eligible for a comprehensive eye exam and up to one year of treatment at no out-of-pocket cost through EyeCare America (www.eyecareamerica.org), a public service program of the Foundation of the American Academy of Ophthalmology.

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