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KEEPING EYES FOR THE FUTURE

Don’t forget to care for your eyes as you age

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POSTED May 29, 2012 6:33 p.m.

The baby boomer generation makes up an estimated 76 million people - roughly one-fourth of the U.S. population. This means that either you or someone you love is part of this aging group. According to Eye on the Boomer, a recent survey by the Ocular Nutrition Society, almost as many baby boomers say they worry about losing their vision as those that say they worry about having heart disease or cancer. What’s more, 78 percent of those surveyed ranked vision as the most important of the five senses. Yet, more than half of the survey respondents ages 45-65 said they don’t typically have a recommended annual eye exam, and even fewer are aware of important nutrients that can play a key role in eye health.

Experts recommend that disease prevention, including lifestyle modification, attention to dietary intake and vitamin supplementation must become a greater focus of primary vision care. Studies indicate that proper nutrition promotes healthy eyes, however many American diets are found to be deficient of the critical nutrients that help protect eye health.

“If people are at risk for heart disease they typically make lifestyle modifications,” says Dr. Jeffrey Anshel, president of the Ocular Nutrition Society. “This survey found that people are as concerned about their eyes but do not know the simple steps they can incorporate into their daily lives to take care of them.”

• Vitamin supplements can be used for your eyes, too

While people take a variety of different supplements to support their health, vitamins specifically formulated to help protect the eyes are often not in the mix - and for many people, they should be. While more than half of those surveyed are taking supplements to protect their joints, bones or heart health only 18 percent say they take supplements to support their eye health.

“As we grow older, the need for certain vitamins and nutrients to support the eye increases - the survey revealed low awareness of these essential nutrients,” says Anshel of nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin. He adds that there is a “need for greater education on the lifestyle modifications that baby boomers can incorporate into their daily lives, including proper nutrition, to help safeguard eye health as they age.”

To help protect eye health as they age, Anshel recommends people aged 45-65 take the following steps:

• Stop smoking, exercise regularly and wear sunglasses with UV protection

• Make an annual appointment with an eye doctor

• Eat foods rich in eye healthy nutrients, such as tuna or salmon for omega-3s and spinach, kale and broccoli containing lutein and zeaxanthin

• To help overcome shortfalls in the diet consider a vitamin supplement specifically-formulated for eye health

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