Sometimes, it can be pretty intimidating when you think of how one health problem translates to others. But you may be in the dark about just how closely connected some issues are.
For example, your risk for eye disease and vision impairment goes way up if you’re overweight or obese, have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol. And even though you may have one of those conditions and think you’ve got excellent vision, that doesn’t mean you’re in the clear.
Those conditions can slowly wear away at healthy tissue in a variety of organs including your eyes. And a recent survey is showing that most people have little idea of how other health conditions affect eye health and the risk of blindness.
A few key takeaways from a recent survey conducted by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) include:
- 81% said they were knowledgeable about vision health.
- 19% knew the three main causes of blindness in the United States (glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), diabetic eye disease).
- 47% knew that blindness does not affect all people equally.
- 37% knew that people may not always have symptoms before losing vision to eye disease.
- 47% knew the brain adapts to vision loss making it hard to recognize loss/impairment.
*The survey included over 3,500 U.S. adults 18 and older.
The results suggest that Americans think they have a good handle on eye health when their knowledge is actually lacking. Protecting your eyes from vision loss is possible, and it will require many of the same strategies you would employ to maintain heart health, brain health, and lower the risk of diabetes.
High cholesterol, high blood pressure, obesity, being overweight, and high blood sugar are all risk factors for eye disease. Family history is also a factor, but it’s not modifiable.
Adopting an eye-healthy lifestyle includes eating plenty of dark leafy greens and colorful fruits and vegetables. Getting omega-3 fatty acids from fish like salmon, tuna, and mackerel may also help protect your eyes.
Increasing activity can also help. Because activity and exercise are associated with lower cholesterol, blood pressure, better glucose metabolism, and a reduced risk for heart disease, it can also be good for your eyes.
Other ways to protect your eyes include wearing sunglasses that block 88-100% of UVA and UVB rays (even on cloudy days) and disinfecting contact lenses regularly.
If you’re over 40, it’s recommended to book an appointment with an eye doctor for a check-up. At 65 or older, annual or semi-annual checkups are recommended.