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Four Tips to Protect Your Eyesight as You Age

January 07, 2004 | 44,534 views

By Dr. Joseph Mercola
     with Rachael Droege

Of all the five senses, most people would least want to lose their sight. Eyes provide not only a window to the world, but also a means to discovering new things. As such, losing their eyesight is one of the common concerns that people have as they age. Let's first be clear that simply aging doesn't mean that your eyesight will diminish, as there are plenty of people in their 80s and beyond who still have good eyesight. However, as you age changes can indeed occur that may weaken your ability to see.

For those who are fortunate enough to have their eyesight, here are some tips to help keep your eyes strong and in good health no matter what your age.

Take Fish Oil Regularly

A fat found in fish called docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may help protect and promote healthy retinal function. DHA is concentrated in the eye's retina and has been found to be particularly useful in preventing macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness.

I don't recommend eating fish due to the concerns of mercury and other toxins that have been found in fish from oceans, lakes and streams and farm-raised fish. The exception is fish that you have had lab-tested to ensure it is free from contamination.

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The best choice is to take a high-quality fish oil, or cod liver oil, regularly. Both fish oil and cod liver oil are rich in DHA and EPA, and the fish oils I recommend are purified to the highest standards so you don't need to worry about contaminants. At this time of year you will likely benefit from cod liver oil, which contains vitamin D that many are deficient in at this time of year, but you will want have your vitamin D levels tested to be sure.

Get Plenty of Lutein

Lutein is a carotenoid found in vegetables and fruits. While beta-carotene, another carotenoid, is commonly thought of as important for vision health, lutein may be even more important.

Lutein, which is found in particularly large quantities in green, leafy vegetables, acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells from free radical damage. If you eat a healthy diet, you should receive more than enough lutein from the food you eat.

Unfortunately, most Americans don't eat enough healthy foods and therefore don't get enough lutein. This is particularly true if you rely on fast food as a staple part of your diet.

This is easily remedied by adding lutein-rich foods to your diet. Some excellent sources include kale, collard greens, spinach, broccoli, brussels sprouts and egg yolks, particularly raw egg yolks. Egg yolks also have zeaxanthin, another carotenoid, in an equal amount to lutein. Zeaxanthin is likely to be equally as effective as lutein in protecting eyesight.

It is important to note that lutein is an oil-soluble nutrient, and if you merely consume the above vegetables without some oil or butter you can't absorb the lutein. If you are consuming vegetable juice, it would be wise to use cod liver oil in the juice to maximize your lutein absorption, as well as the absorption of other important nutrients like vitamin K.

Eat Dark Colored Berries

Not only do berries taste great, but also the compounds that give them their dark color are great for your health. The European blueberry, bilberry, is known to prevent and even reverse macular degeneration, and bioflavonoids from other dark-colored berries including blueberries, cranberries and others will also be beneficial.

They work by strengthening the capillaries that carry nutrients to eye muscles and nerves.

Avoid Trans Fat

A diet high in trans fat appears to contribute to macular degeneration. Trans fat may interfere with omega-3 fats in your body, which are extremely important for your eye health.

Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like french fries, fried chicken and doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers.

Related Articles:

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Chlamydia May Also Cause Age-Related Macular Degeneration

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