Eating right for your eye health

By Dr. Laurie Capogna

Throughout my twenty years of optometric practice, I have found that most people consider vision to be one of their most important senses. Maintaining healthy eyes and clear vision is important to all my patients, and they frequently ask how they can keep their eyes strong and preserve their vision. The answer is – through a healthy lifestyle and diet. 

Research has shown that following a diet high in certain nutrients may help to maintain healthier eyes and decrease the risk for eye disease, such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and dry eye syndrome. The eye uses nutrients to function and some of the most important nutrients for eye health include; lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, omega-3 fatty acids and zinc. 

Vegetables and fruits, including kale, spinach, orange peppers, kiwi and berries are some examples of foods that contain a high amount of nutrients important for ocular health. Adding cold-water fish, such as salmon, rainbow trout and tuna, to your diet twice a week also helps protect against certain eye diseases. Other foods such as nuts and seeds, and lean meats can also contribute important vitamins and nutrients.  

Poor diets can lead to excess weight, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and hypertension. Both of these diseases can cause stress to the small blood vessels in the body, particularly in the retina (the light-sensitive tissue lining the back of our eye). This can lead to complications in retinal health and potential vision loss. Also, people who suffer from heart disease have been shown to have a higher risk for age-related macular degeneration. So following a heart healthy diet can also help to maintain eye health. 

Many eye diseases do not cause signs or symptoms in their early stages. For example, glaucoma is a disease that has no ocular symptoms until it has advanced and caused damage to the optic nerve in the eye. It causes a slow loss of peripheral vision, and once vision is lost with glaucoma, it cannot be regained. For this reason it is extremely important to have regular eye examinations with an optometrist. When diagnosed early, many ocular diseases, such as glaucoma, can be treated without any vision loss. Your optometrist will also advise you on how you can help to prevent ocular disease and maintain your best eye health.

I have seen so many patients become empowered when they learn that there is something they can do to help maintain their eye health. It’s never too early or too late to start eating foods that are important for your eyes and overall health. 

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