While there is no scientific proof that you can prevent cataracts, there are certainly steps you can take to help reduce your risk factors.
A cataract is a clouding of the lens of the eye, which can impair your vision. Cataracts affect nearly 22 million Americans age 40 and older. By age 80, more than half of all Americans have cataracts. According to Prevent Blindness America, there are more cases worldwide of cataracts than glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy combined.
No matter your age, there are steps you can take to help prevent cataracts or slow their development. Don’t wait until your vision becomes affected to start thinking about cataracts. Read on to discover seven healthy tips you can tackle today!
Seven Tips for Preventing Cataracts
Studies are inconclusive on cataract prevention, though many doctors agree that there are strategies you can use to help reduce your risk of cataracts and maintain overall eye health, such as:
- See your eye doctor regularly. Even if your vision is clear and healthy, make it a priority to schedule yearly eye exams. Routine visits allow your eye care professional to look for signs of cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and other vision disorders. Early detection may actually save your sight!
- Eat a diet rich in beneficial nutrients. There are several antioxidants, vitamins and minerals that can help reduce your risk of developing cataracts. A 2008 study of 35,551 women found that those who consumed the most lutein and zeaxanthin (antioxidants found in yellow or dark-green leafy vegetables), had an 18% lower chance of developing cataracts than those who consumed the least amount of lutein and zeaxanthin. In another study done in 2005, it was found that omega-3 fatty acids might help shield your eyes from cataract development. Looking at data on 71,083 women, the study’s authors discovered that those with a higher intake of omega-3s (found in oily fish like salmon and sardines, as well as in flaxseed) had a reduced risk of cataracts. A healthy diet should be a priority for all of us. Eating foods high in antioxidants, such as beta-carotene, selenium, and vitamins C and E, as these may also help ward off cataract development.
- Quit smoking — or better yet, never start. We all know that cigarettes pose a litany of health risks to you and those around you. However, did you know smoking affects your eye health too? Research suggests that smoking doubles your chances of developing cataracts and the risk continues to grow based on how much your smoke.
- Cut back on the cocktails. Heading out to happy hour this week? If so, remember to enjoy your beer, wine or cocktails in moderation. Like cigarettes, excess alcohol consumption can pose a number of health risks, including an increased chance of developing cataracts.
- Protect those eyes from the sun! A 2014 John Hopkins study verified that years of chronic sunlight exposure could increase your risk of cataracts. Make sure you wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses with UV protection when outside for extended periods.
- Keep your diabetes under control. Data suggests that those with diabetes are at greater risk for developing cataracts. That is why maintaining healthy blood sugar is so important—for both your overall health and the health of your vision.
- Avoid using corticosteroid medications for any length of time. Long-term use of oral steroids is a well-known cause of cataracts. Studies are conflicting, however, over whether inhaled and nasal-spray steroids increase the risk for cataracts. Always ask your doctor about risk factors when starting a new drug regimen.
Self-care measures may help for a while, but if your cataract progresses your vision may deteriorate further. When vision loss starts to interfere with your everyday activities, consult with your eye care professional to learn more about cataract surgery.