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June is Cataract Awareness Month

What is the treatment for cataracts?
Even though cataracts are so prevalent, they are very simple to treat. Cataracts are a clouding of the lens of the eye, which prevents passage of light into the eye. The solution to cataracts is cataract surgery, which requires a surgeon to remove the deteriorated lens and replace it with an artificial lens called an intraocular lens or IOL. Over 3 million Americans undergo cataract surgery annually, making it one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In fact, the entire surgery lasts only about 20 minutes, and most people can resume normal activities fairly rapidly.Is cataract removal safe?Cataract surgery is one of the safest and most effective surgeries with a success rate of 95 percent. Your surgeon will remove your clouded lens and replace it with an intraocular lens (IOL). Only a miniscule incision in the cornea is necessary to do this procedure, and it can be completed in about 15 minutes in an outpatient surgery centerDo cataracts only affect seniors?

Cataracts can affect anyone! Although most people do not show symptoms of cataracts until at least the age of 40, cataracts can also affect young adults or even children. Heredity, disease, eye injury and smoking could cause cataracts to develop at an earlier age.

Can I prevent cataracts?

There is no proven way to prevent age-related cataracts. However, choosing a healthy lifestyle can slow the progression of cataracts. Some ways to delay the progression of cataracts include avoiding smoking, reducing exposure to UV rays, eating healthy foods, and wearing proper eye protection to avoid eye injury.

Foods that Fight Cataracts

Although the exact cause of cataracts is unclear, research suggests that free radicals, or oxidation, may be to blame. Free radicals are unstable chemicals formed in the body when we are exposed to environmental toxins. These harmful chemicals can be found in air, food and water. As pollutants increase in our environment, free radical damage is also on the rise. When free radicals come into contact with our cell membranes or DNA, they can cause cell weakness or cell death. Oxidation is linked to every degenerative disease such as cancer, heart disease, natural aging and cataracts. Oxidation can damage the proteins and enzymes in the lens of the eye and cause cataracts to form.

If free radicals are the villain, antioxidants are the ultimate superhero. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralize free radicals before cell damage occurs. The most prominent antioxidants are vitamin E, beta-carotene, vitamin C and selenium. Since the body cannot synthesize antioxidants, they must be incorporated into the diet. This is the perfect time of year to find fresh fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants that protect your eyes from cataracts.

Vitamin E has many other health benefits besides protection against cataracts. It protects your skin from UV rays, allows cells to communicate with one another and protects you from prostate cancer and Alzheimer’s disease. Good sources of vitamin E are sunflower seeds, almonds, spinach, dark leafy greens, and papaya.

Beta-carotene is known to protect against cancer and aging as well as prevent cataract formation. Because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, it is best to pair your food source of beta carotene with a fat like nuts or oil to aid in absorption. The best sources of beta-carotene are sweet potatoes, kale, carrots, turnip and mustard greens, spinach, and butternut squash.

Vitamin C may be helpful in fighting cataracts by slowing their progression. The American Optometric Association recommends at least 250 mg of daily vitamin C for optimum eye health. Five servings of various fruits and vegetables provide 100 grams or more of this powerful antioxidant, but there are a few vitamin C superstars. The green hot chili pepper reigns supreme with an impressive 243 mg/100 g serving. If you like to kick up the heat, you can get all your daily vitamin C from just four of these spicy little guys! Other good sources of vitamin C are guavas, bell peppers, dark leafy greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kiwi, papaya and the poster child for vitamin C—the orange.

With the beautiful colors and varieties of fruits and vegetables that are high in antioxidants, you have many choices for healthy, nutritious foods to protect you from free-radical damage. Go treat yourself to a trip to the produce section of your grocery store or a local vegetable stand to keep those eyes healthy and keep cataracts away!

8 Fun Facts About Seniors

8 Fun Facts about Seniors in America

Many younger generations do not realize that aging has many benefits and is not something to be feared. In fact, to showcase the fun and unique benefits of becoming a senior citizen, I’ve created a list of 8 fun facts about seniors in America.

1.     Senior Citizens are the Fastest-Growing Demographic on Facebook

One may think that college students are the fastest growing user demographic in the Facebook world, but you may be surprised to find out that it is senior citizens instead. Research studies done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 53% of Americans who are the ages of 65 or older are online and 34% of those numbers are on Facebook and similar social sites.  Being on these social sites is a way for grandparents to be a part of children and grandchildren’s lives and connect with them beyond family functions and holidays.

2.     Several  Seniors Participate in Fun Events Almost Every Day

Seniors who are members of community centers often have the opportunity to participate in fun activities almost daily. Whether it is engaging in board games, taking yoga classes or hosting a fashion show, the senior population of America is having more fun than almost any other age demographic.

3.     In America, Seniors Use More Internet Than Any One Else

Seniors in America are the fastest growing group of consumers buying new computers and logging time online. In fact, older adults aged 55 years old and older log the most usage online with 33 hours a month spent on sites like Facebook and 7.6 million senior internet surfers.

4.     Seniors are Focusing on Slowing the Aging Process Through Exercise

Many seniors are focusing on slowing the aging process and a study in 1995 found that the death rate of fit men was decreased by 44% compared to unhealthy adults. It is because of several studies like these that exercising with water aerobics, yoga and walking are some of the most popular senior exercises.

5.     Seniors Make More Life Transitions Than Any Other Age Range

Adults in their 50s and 60s experience more significant transitions in life and any other phase of life. This can be an exciting time of experiencing new hobbies, making lifelong friends and defining what life means to them. This also includes becoming more involved in a community of similar aged adults and having fun with exercising, unique activities and hobbies.

6.     Gardening is The #1 Hobby for Adults Over 50

As senior adults gain more free time, they often find joy in new hobbies such as gardening, competing in competitions and traveling. Gardening takes patience and care while yielding great results, making it the number one hobby for adults over the age of 50.

7.     Seniors are the Fastest Growing Tourism Traveler Demographic

Senior tourism is expected to continually increase in the next ten years as more seniors seeing improved health and more time after retirement. Currently through better organization, easy bookings and improved health, more seniors travel the world than ever before. This also could be due to the increased online presence of seniors, making booking and finding new locations to travel much easier than ever before.

8.     Senior Healthcare is Becoming More Well Rounded

Adults over the age of 65 are turning their healthcare focus into something much better rounded. Blending several healthy life aspects together such as fitness, spirituality, meditation, entertainment, travel and clean living, has resulted in a shift to healthier senior adults.

Glaucoma Awareness Month

January is National Glaucoma Awareness Month, an important time to spread the word about this sight-stealing disease. Currently, more than 3 million people in the United States have glaucoma. The National Eye Institute projects this number will reach 4.2 million by 2030, a 58 percent increase.

Typically, There Are No Early Warning Signs

What makes glaucoma so frightening is that it often becomes a sudden problem. Most people don’t notice any of the warning signs or symptoms; however, with regular eye exams we can check the pressure of your eye and monitor your risk.

Who’s Most At Risk For Glaucoma?

Though certain factors put you at higher risk, it’s important for everyone to understand the risk factors. For example, glaucoma usually affects people in their middle age—and the elderly—but it can, and does, affect people all age groups.

  • African Americans are at a much higher risk and that risk spikes as early as age 40.
  • You’re at a higher risk over age 60 and even more so over age 80.
  • Some medical conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure, and heart disease may increase risk.
  • If you have a family history of glaucoma, you are a much higher risk.

Diagnosing Glaucoma Early Can Help Preserve Sight

There’s no cure for glaucoma; however, when caught early, we can take steps to slow or halt vision loss. Often treatments as simple as specialized eye drops that reduce the pressure building up inside of your eye can make a difference.

Glaucoma is a group of eye disorders leading to progressive damage of the optic nerve and is characterized by loss of nerve tissue resulting in vision loss.

In most cases, glaucoma is associated with higher-than-normal pressure inside the eye (ocular hypertension). If untreated or uncontrolled, glaucoma first causes peripheral vision loss and eventually can lead to blindness. Globally, glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness (behind cataracts), according to the World Health Organization.

Types and Causes of Glaucoma

There are many types of glaucoma and many theories about the causes of glaucoma, but the exact cause is unknown. The two main types are open-angle and acute angle-closure. Distinguishing both types is a marked increase of intraocular pressure (pressure inside the eye).

According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), open-angle glaucoma affects an estimated 2.2 million people in the United States, with numbers expecting to increase to 3.3 million by 2020 as the U.S. population ages.

What Risk Factors Affect Glaucoma?

Because chronic forms of glaucoma can destroy vision before any signs or symptoms are apparent, be aware of the following risk factors:

Elevated Internal Eye Pressure. If your internal eye pressure (intraocular pressure) is higher than normal, you are at increased risk of developing glaucoma — though not everyone with elevated intraocular pressure develops the disease.

Age. People over age 60 are at increased risk for the disease. Elderly adults over age 80 have three to ten times the risk of developing glaucoma as individuals in their 40s. For African Americans, however, the increase in risk begins after age 40.

Race/Ethnicity. African Americans are significantly more likely to get glaucoma than Caucasians and are much more likely to suffer permanent vision loss as a result. People of Asian descent have an increased risk of developing acute angle-closure glaucoma.

Family History. Having a family history of glaucoma increases your risk of developing glaucoma.

Medical Conditions. Some studies indicate that diabetes may increase your risk of developing glaucoma, as do high blood pressure and heart disease.

Eye Injury. Severe trauma to the eye can result in immediate increased eye pressure and future increases in pressure due to internal damage. Injury can also dislocate the lens, closing the drainage angle and increasing pressure.

Other Eye-related Risk Factors. Eye anatomy (namely corneal thickness and optic nerve appearance) indicate risk for development of glaucoma. Conditions such as retinal detachment, eye tumors, and eye inflammations may also induce glaucoma. Some studies suggest that high amounts of nearsightedness may also be a risk factor for the development of glaucoma.

Corticosteroid Use. Using corticosteroids for prolonged periods of time appears to put some people at risk of getting secondary glaucoma.

What Are the Warning Signs?

Most people with glaucoma have no early symptoms or pain from the increased pressure, so it is important to see your eye doctor regularly to diagnose and treat glaucoma before long-term visual loss occurs.

Glaucoma Treatment Options

While there is no cure for glaucoma, early diagnosis and continuing treatment can preserve eyesight. Nerve damage and vision loss from glaucoma cannot usually be reversed; however, glaucoma can generally be controlled.

The treatment of glaucoma is aimed at reducing intraocular pressure. The most common first-line treatment of glaucoma is usually prescription eye drops. In some cases, systemic medications, laser treatment and/or another surgery may be required.

How Can You Reduce Your Risk of Glaucoma?

When it comes to glaucoma, risk reduction is a simple matter of damage control. Aside from following healthy lifestyle recommendations, we have little control over whether we develop glaucoma.

If you are over the age of 40 and if you have a family history of glaucoma, you should have a complete eye exam with an eye doctor every one to two years. If you have health problems such as diabetes or a family history of glaucoma or are at risk for other eye diseases, you may need to visit your eye doctor more frequently.

American Heart Month

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. You can make healthy changes to lower your risk of developing heart disease. Controlling and preventing risk factors is also important for people who already have heart disease. To lower your risk:

  • Watch your weight.
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
  • Get active and eat healthy.

Visit the American Heart Association’s website for additional information on healthy lifestyle changes and local events.