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Stay focused to keep your eyes healthy

Thanks to Shakespeare, many people associate this month with the Ides of March. But for seniors, the American Optometric Association (AOA) would like them to think of it as the “Eyes of March.” The AOA designates March as its annual “Save Your Vision Month” to bring eye awareness to everyone, but especially to seniors.

As we age, our eye health decreases. Diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease all increase the risk of age-related eye diseases. The good news is you can lessen those chances with modifications to your diet and lifestyle.

Healthy eating benefits seniors in many ways, but it’s especially important for your eyes. To keep your eyes healthy, make these foods a daily part of your diet:

Colorful fruits and vegetables rich in Vitamin C, such as kale, broccoli, spinach, collard greens, turnip greens, oranges, grapefruit and tangerines. All are foods that help prevent the formation of cataracts.

Salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts and flax seeds, which all contain Omega three fatty acids that reduce the risk of dry eye and macular degeneration.

Foods with the mineral Zinc, such as lean red meat, beans and whole grains.

And don’t forget to consume plenty of nuts like almonds, pecans and sunflower seeds, which are rich in Vitamin E.

Aside from diet, there are lifestyle changes all seniors should make, some fairly obvious. For example:

Always wear wraparound sunglasses, preferably with anti-reflective coating, to protect your eyes from damaging UV rays. Wearing a hat with a brim is also a good idea.

Check your blood pressure regularly. High blood pressure could be damaging your blood vessels.

Many seniors love passing the time with a good book, but you should take a break every 30 minutes to reduce the strain on your eyes.

And don’t forget to exercise… your eyes, that is! Roll your eyes and move them from side to side. Just like the rest of your body, your eyes need a workout, too.

You can also reduce eye fatigue by using extra lighting and switching to fluorescent bulbs.

Get plenty of sleep. Our eyes lubricate when we sleep, which helps clear out irritants such as dust, allergens and smoke.

Finally, don’t smoke. Smokers have a nearly six times greater risk of developing eye issues.

The older we get, the more focused we should be on our eyes. Have regular eye exams and notify your optometrist if you notice significant changes. The AOA recommends annual eye exams for everyone over age 60.

With proper care, you can limit the impact your decreased vision has on your daily life. As is often the case with any health issue, prevention is the best medicine in keeping your eyes healthy.

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