Preserving the windows to your soul: a guide to protecting aging eyes

Our eyes are our most precious sensory organs and as we grow older it becomes increasingly important to care for them.

As the years roll on, the incidence of age-related eye conditions such as presbyopia, cataracts, age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and glaucoma increases.

“Even though we can’t outrun the effects Father Time may have on our bodies, there are certainly ways to promote and maintain good eye health as we age to minimise the risk of developing serious eye conditions,” said Lyn Hsieh, optometrist and National Professional Services Advisor at Optometry Australia.

Here are five tips to support healthy eyes to ensure you maintain, well, good vision for life.

Get your eyes checked often 

Regular eye exams are essential, whether you have a family history of vision issues or not.  

According to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW), chronic eye conditions affect almost nine in 10 Aussies over the age of 65. 

"Visiting your local optometrist routinely every year after the age of 65 should rank pretty high on the list of important things to do as you age. Routine eye examinations are critical for early detection of age-related eye issues, which can be identified by an optometrist.” 

Additionally, if you wear prescription glasses or contact lenses, keeping them up to date is essential as your vision needs may change over time. 

Understand your risk

As they say, knowledge is power, and when it comes to eye health and wellbeing there’s no such thing as being too informed. 

"Knowing what things affect your eye health and how to identify symptoms is one of the most effective ways to stay on top of your vision's vitality. It’s also important to understand any medical conditions, work-related factors or family history that might play a significant role in impacting your personal eye health.” 

For those who spend long hours in front of a computer screen, it’s important to take regular breaks away from your desk, remember to blink and ensure that your screen is positioned at least an arm’s length from your face to prevent eye strain. 

Outdoor workers should protect their eyes from sun damage by slipping on sunnies that provide the recommend amount of UVA/UVB protection while those exposed to potential eye hazards in their workplace or other hobbies, the wearing of appropriate protective eyewear is a non-negotiable. 

Having a good grip on your family's health history is also crucial since over 350 eye diseases are hereditary.

While you can't change your genetics, being aware of a predisposition to certain conditions can help you identify symptoms or seek preventive care sooner.

Protection from the sun 

UV rays can cause significant harm to your eyes and can cause irreversible damage with excessive exposure linked to a higher risk of cataracts and even eye cancers (ocular melanomas).  

The Cancer Council of Australia estimates that more than 400 people have been diagnosed with ocular melanomas this year, with the average age at diagnosis being 61 years old. 

“It's crucial to wear sunglasses that block at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays, along with a proper hat for added protection.”

Remember you are what you eat 

While external factors can significantly impact eye health, eyes are just another part of the body, so maintaining your overall well-being is equally important. 

"A diet full of the best foods for healthy eyes can help deliver your body the nutrients it needs; foods like almonds, broccoli, carrots, eggs, kiwi, leafy greens, salmon and sunflower seeds can provide essential nutrients for optimal eye health.” 

A proper diet also encourages healthy blood glucose levels and body weight, reducing the risk of diabetes-related vision impairment.

Give cigarettes the flick 

In addition to all the other health problems it can cause, smoking also increases the risk of age-related eye conditions, such as macular degeneration and cataracts. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that smokers are twice as likely to develop age-related macular degeneration and two to three times more likely to develop cataracts than nonsmokers. 

“Smoking is the biggest controllable factor associated with age-related macular degeneration and kicking the habit - even later in life – can significantly reduce the risk of developing the disease, which can inevitably lead to blindness.” 

While we appreciate that everyone ages differently from the next person, the evidence undeniably indicates that keeping yourself in good health as you age decreases the occurrence or effects of age-associated eye problems. 

“Protecting your aging eyes requires awareness, regular visits to the optometrist, wearing proper eyewear and maintaining a balanced lifestyle. By prioritising eye health, it means the windows to our soul can be maintained well into their golden years.” 

You can use our Find an Optometristsearch tool to book an appointment with your nearest optometrist today. 

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