Sometimes when I meet my girlfriends for lunch and happy hour, you see one of the 40-year-olds starts squinting while trying to read the menu. Those of us who are over the age of 50 just shake our heads in empathy because we understand that vision changes are part of life. While not technically part of the menopause transition, vision changes often are part of this stage of life so I thought I’d contribute a sharepost that focuses on eye health.
First the good news - MedlinePlus reports that a new study finds that our middle-age eyes are healthier than those of previous generations. Analyzing new large national surveys of more than 100,000 people, researchers determined that the percentage of older adults who reported that poor eyesight made it difficult to read or make out specific objects declined by 13 percent from 23 percent in 1974 to 10 percent in 2010. Furthermore, the percentage of older adults who needed assistance performing daily tasks due to severe vision problems dropped from 3.5 percent in 1984 to 1.7 percent in 2010.
Lead author Dr. Angelo Tanna of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who led the study, believes these change may be due to changes in nutrition and lifestyle (such as stopping smoking), greater use of corrective lenses such as glasses and contact lenses, refractive surgery, and improved techniques for cataract surgery.
That’s encouraging because middle-age is when vision changes start to happen. "Beginning in the early to mid-forties, most adults may start to experience problems with their ability to see clearly at close distances, especially for reading and computer tasks," The American Optometric Association website states. "This normal aging change in the eye’s focusing ability, called presbyopia, will continue to progress over time." AOA pointed out that other issues related to eye health can start developing as well and recommends a comprehensive eye examination at least every two years.
The association notes that risk factors that can hurt eye health include the following:
- Chronic conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.
- A family history of glaucoma or macular degeneration.
- A job that demands lots of use of the yes or is hazardous to the eyes.
- Health conditions such as high cholesterol, thyroid condition, anxiety or depression. In addition, many medications have ocular side effects, including antihistamines.
Age-related vision changes may include:
- The need for additional light in order to see well.
- Difficulty reading and doing close work since it is difficulty to focus.
- Problems with additional glare from headlights at night or the sun reflecting off of windshields or pavement during the day.
- Changes in color perception, making it difficult to distinguish between different shades of color.
- Reduced tear production, which is particular try for women after menopause.
- According to AOA, warning signs of vision issues include:
- Changes in how clearly you can see. If your vision fluctuates, it could be a sign of diabetes or high blood pressure.
- Excessive floaters. While seeing spots or floaters (shadowy images of particles floating in the fluid inside the eye) periodically is normal, if you see more floaters than normal and there’s bright flashing light, you may have a tear in the retina. This needs to be treated immediately tin order to prevent loss of vision.
- Losing side vision - Loss of peripheral vision could be a sign of glaucoma, which occurs when the optic nerve is damaged. The nerve no longer can transmit all visual images to the brain.
- Distorted images - If you’re seeing distorted or wavy lines that should be straight or if you see a blind spot or empty area at the center of your vision, you need to be checked out for age-related macular degeneration.
Fortunately, you can be proactive in protecting your vision through your diet. Based on a review of the scientific literature, the George Mateljan Foundation recommends eating three or more servings of fruit per day. Opt for fruits that contain flavonoid phytonutrients, such as berries, which protect eye health. Also, try to eat fish four times or more per week. Nutrients in vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, kale and mustard greens have been found to support eye health. Also, be sure to eat foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin such as such as eggs, kale, spinach, turnip greens, collard greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, zucchini, corn, garden peas and Brussels sprouts.
Primary Sources for This Sharepost:
American Optometric Association. (N.D.) Adult vision: 41 to 60 years of age.
Narayanan, A. (2012). Older Americans reporting fewer vision problems. MedlinePlus.
The George Mateljan Foundation. (N.D.) What foods are best for vision health.
Dorian Martin writes about various topics for HealthCentral, including Alzheimer’s disease, diet/exercise, menopause and lung cancer. Dorian is a health and caregiving advocate living in College Station, TX. She has a Ph.D. in educational human resource development. Dorian also founded I Start Wondering, which encourages people to embrace a life-long learning approach to aging. She teaches Sheng Zhen Gong, a form of Qigong. Follow Dorian on Twitter at @dorianmartin, Facebook or Instagram at @doriannmartin.