You know the old adage, “Youth is wasted on the young”?
Well, I’ve never quite liked that saying. I’ve always wanted to reword it somehow.
It’s not that we waste our individual youthfulness when we’re young; it’s that most of us aren’t aware of all the ways that getting older affects the many health privileges that youth affords. Yes, we sometimes take our good health for granted when we’re young. But that’s not a waste. It’s just…well, it’s just that being healthy is something that’s easy to casually overlook.
If you’re a 23-year-old with relatively good eyesight (with or without a boost from contacts or glasses), and you’re not looking at the screen and struggling to make out the letters, then you might be enjoying a perk of youth without even knowing it.
And that’s okay. To an extent. Just keep in mind that the eyesight you have today may not be the eyesight you have tomorrow.
See, the risk of vision loss increases with age. A disease known as Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is one of the most common cause of blindness in people older than 60 years. In AMD, there’s a deterioration of the macula, a small area of the retina that is responsible for your central vision. When the macula is compromised you’re less able to see fine details clearly. For many older people, AMD is part of the body’s natural aging process. That doesn’t mean you should walk into your golden years, shrugging your shoulders with a sense of inevitability that you’ll eventually be blind.
Here are 5 things that you can do now to prevent AMD:
1. Don’t Smoke (Quit Now or Don’t Start in the First Place) According to numerous studies, smoking is a huge risk factor for macular degeneration. The Bright Focus Foundation, a nonprofit that supports research into the treatment and prevention of macular degeneration, even says that smoking is “the largest modifiable risk factor for age-related macular degeneration.” That’s right: Smoking is the largest risk factor, not just a leading one. Plus: It’s modifiable. Cigarette smoke contains chemicals that, when absorbed by the lungs, can damage the retina as they travel through the bloodstream. The damage can be quite severe, so much so that some research suggests that risk for getting AMD is even double for smokers than for nonsmokers. If you’re a smoker, consider reading one of the many articles online with advice about quitting.
2. Maintain a Healthy Weight Obesity is another major risk factor for macular degeneration. The June 2003 issue of Archives of Ophthalmology reported that people, who performed a vigorous activity (at least) three times per week, reduced their risk of developing advanced AMD, compared with inactive patients.
3. Know Your Family History Some experts suggest a genetic component to AMD. Although there’s not a specific pattern of inheritance, the condition appears to run in families in some cases. The National Institutes of Health says, “An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people with age-related macular degeneration have at least one first-degree relative (such as a sibling) with the condition.” Now, I’m not suggesting that you run out and order genetic testing. I do hope, however, you keep an even closer eye on your eye health if you have a close relative with AMD. Remember the advice I’ve shared here and also check out this more extensive list of AMD prevention suggestions at AllAboutVision.com.
4. Schedule Annual Eye Exams If not every year, then every two years. Regular eye exams can mean an early diagnosis when something’s wrong. The earlier you find out about a problem, then you can limit any vision loss and help preserve your eyesight. Furthermore, don’t hesitate to see your eye doctor if you notice any changes in your vision, like double or hazy vision. Your eyesight is a precious resource, and I recommend being just as vigilant about your vision as you are about other elements of your health and wellbeing.
5. Get Checked Regularly for Diabetes and High Blood Pressure If left untreated, these are two diseases that can cause severe macular degeneration leading to vision loss. Sufferers of these conditions might also experience vision loss from eye strokes, which are blockages in the veins of the retina, or diabetic retinopathy, which is a complication of diabetes that is caused by damage to the eye’s blood vessels.
Now, having shared those five points with you, I wish you many yeas of good health and great eyesight. Here’s to doing those things now that will help you maintain optimal sight well into the future.