How to protect your eyes from chronic conditions

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SAN FRANCISCO (KRON) – According to the World Health Organization, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world. By 2020, 30.1 million are projected to be diagnosed with cataracts (a 32% increase since 2009). Health expert, Karen Owoc, has some tips on how to protect your eyes.

Our eyes age just like our skin and are at risk for chronic conditions, such as cataracts. In the U.S., more than half of all people 65 and older have a cataract. The increase in cases is due to the rapidly aging U.S. population.

The lens inside your eyes are naturally clear. They are made of water and protein. If the proteins are arranged normally and precisely, they keep the lens clear and allow light to pass through it.

Over time, some of the protein may clump together which can cloud areas of the lens. The cloudy area is the cataract and can grow larger making it more difficult to see.

The surgeon removes the clouded lens and replaces it with an artificial lens.

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are red, orange, and yellow pigments (antioxidants) found in plants (both the flesh as well as in the leaves).

These eye-friendly pigments collect in the retina and the lens of the eye and help filter out the damaging effects of the sun — they’re kind of like internal sunglasses.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are highest in dark green leafy vegetables.

  • Dark, green leafy vegetables — Kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens (outstanding sources)
  • Yellow/deep orange foods – Corn, mandarin oranges, carrots
  • Other foods: Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, garden peas, beans

Perfect Pairing: Fats help increase the absorption of lutein and zeaxanthin, so eating them with some olive oil in a green salad or with avocado is a good idea.

Carrots are rich in beta carotene. Your body converts beta carotene to a form of vitamin A (called “retinal”) which is a key molecule involved in maintaining normal vision.

The Takeaway: Caring for your eyes includes paying special attention to what you eat. Eat at least 5 to 9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables daily to consume adequate amounts of lutein, zeaxanthin, and other healthful nutrients.

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