MANILA, JULY 2, 2008
(STAR)  The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 37 million people worldwide are blind, and that majority of them are older people. More than 83 percent of people who are blind are over 50 years old.

Even with these alarming statistics, it is interesting to note is that more than 75 percent of the world’s blindness is preventable or treatable. This can be achieved if people start taking care of their eyes at an early age.

“As you get older, the incidence of eye diseases such as cataract, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration or AMD increases. AMD is a disease associated with aging that gradually destroys sharp, central vision leading to blindness. That’s why it is very important to take care of the eyes even while you’re still young to prevent the development of eye diseases when you get older,” says Dr. Harvey Uy, retina and vitreous disease specialist at the Asian Eye Institute.

Unknown to many, proper nutrition plays a big role in eye health.

“Have a healthy diet rich in vitamins and minerals known to protect the eye such as vitamin A or beta-carotene, vitamin C or ascorbic acid, vitamin E, zinc, carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin, and some levels of omega 3 fatty acids. The protective value of these substances was revealed in a study conducted by the National Institute of Health in the US, dubbed AREDS or the Age-Related Eye Disease Study,” Uy says.

AREDS, which was completed and reported in 2001, was a major research program conducted to assess the clinical course, prognosis, and risk factors of AMD and cataract, and to evaluate through randomized clinical trials the effects of antioxidants such as vitamins A, C, and E and zinc on the progression of AMD and lens opacities.

Following the AREDS formulation, people at high risk of developing advanced stages of AMD lowered their risk by about 25 percent when treated with a high-dose combination of vitamin C (500mg), vitamin E (400iu), vitamin A or beta-carotene (15mg), zinc (80mg), and copper (2mg) to prevent copper deficiency anemia, a condition associated with high levels of zinc intake.

Adding 10mg of natural carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin boosts protection of the eyes from harmful light and radiation and may provide longevity of vision.

You can get vitamin A in carrots, sweet potatoes, and liver. To get your daily dose of vitamin C, consume a lot of fruits and vegetables like oranges, strawberries, and broccoli. Vitamin E can be found in nuts such as almonds and hazelnuts. Zinc is found in red meat, oysters and wheat. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy vegetables, peas, corn, and many yellow and orange fruits. Get omega 3 fatty acids by eating seafood.

Since not all people are in the habit of eating healthy, eye vitamins are important to supplement your diet.

Uy says, “Ocular vitamins such as Vitalux provide effective supplementation to ensure protection and health of your eyes. Vitalux is a good preventive measure to lessen your risk of developing eye diseases.”

Also, for people with AMD, the levels of vitamins needed to protect the eye are much more than any person can obtain from even healthy eating, thus vitamin supplementation is essential.

Vitalux is a nutritional supplement containing the essential vitamins and minerals such as vitamin A, C and E and zinc which has been shown to approximate the AREDS formula, decreasing the chances of losing vision from cataract and AMD.

For elderly already at risk for AMD, Vitalux Plus is recommended, as it contains more carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin.

Another preventive measure is taking enough rest so as not to overexert the eyes. “Activities like reading when it’s dark, using the computer or staring at a small screen like your cellphone for too long a time stresses the eyes, causing them to be exposed and dry up. Your vision may become blurry and you may develop eye inflammation, which later on can make you vulnerable to eye diseases,” Uy says.

It is also important to protect the eyes when going out in broad daylight.

Uy explains: “The harmful light beams or radiation from the sun like UV rays and blue light cause damage to the eyes. Blue light is more harmful because it penetrates the eyes more, from the cornea all the way to the retina. These harmful rays are associated with cataract formation and AMD. Shield your eyes from these damaging rays by wearing cap, sun visor, and sunglasses with UV protection.”

To know the status of your eye health and how these tips can help protect your eyes from diseases, Uy stresses the importance of regularly visiting an eye specialist.

“Even if you’re not yet at risk for cataract or AMD, it is best to have your eyes checked regularly so you would know how to properly take care of your eyes to avoid the risk of developing these eye diseases.”

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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