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10 Best Ways To Avoid Cataracts

10 Best Ways To Avoid Cataracts

Healthy behaviors can reduce the risk for cataracts, such as exercising regularly, eating nutritious foods, and avoiding excess sun exposure.

Cataracts affect more than 24.4 million Americans aged 40 years and older. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, an estimated 50% of all Americans will have cataracts by the time they turn 75. That’s why taking steps to avoid cataracts as early as possible is essential to have good eye health.

Here are 10 effective ways to prevent cataracts and how to contact Lompoc Valley Medical Center when you’re ready for an eye exam or treatment.

1. Get Regular Eye Exams

Seeing your doctor or optometrist for regular eye exams can help you avoid cataracts and other vision problems. Your doctor can detect early signs of cataracts and review your medical history to find out whether you’re at risk for this condition.

Ask your doctor about how often you should have an eye exam.

The American Optometric Association has the below recommendations for eye exams:

  • 18 to 64 years: an eye exam every two years, or every year if you meet risk factors for eye problems.
  • 65 years and older: an eye exam every year or more often if you meet risk factors for eye problems.

People at risk for eye and vision problems include those with:

  • A family history of eye disease.
  • Contact lenses.
  • History of eye surgery or eye injury.
  • Vision in only one eye.
  • Health conditions that could lead to vision problems.
  • Occupations that put them at risk for eye injuries.

Your doctor can talk to you in more detail about how often you should see your eye doctor.

2. Stop Smoking

Smoking exposes your organs—including your eyes—to harmful toxins. These toxins, or free radicals, can increase your risk for various health problems, including cataracts.

If you smoke, work with your doctor to quit as soon as possible. This will bring you one step closer to reducing your risk for cataracts. Even if you have smoked for many years, quitting now may prevent or reverse some of the damage done to your eyes.

Your doctor can discuss all the available treatment options that can help you quit. Medications, talk therapy, and nicotine replacement are all effective treatments that can help you stop smoking.

3. Manage Your Blood Sugar If You Have Diabetes

People with diabetes tend to have chronically high blood sugar levels. Over time, high blood sugar levels in diabetes can change the structure of the lenses in your eyes. According to the American Diabetes Association, these structural changes can lead to the development of cataracts.

If you have diabetes, work with your doctor to manage and control your blood sugar levels. This usually involves taking your medications as directed. It may also require you to eat less sugar and more healthy foods that help you manage your condition. Exercising regularly, reducing stress, and getting quality sleep can also help you control your blood sugar.

Frequent eye exams are usually recommended for anyone who has diabetes. Your doctor may suggest visiting your eye doctor regularly for exams, as diabetes is a risk factor for cataracts.

4. Avoid Corticosteroids

Corticosteroids are medications that reduce inflammation. Lupus, arthritis, and asthma are some of the many conditions that can be treated using corticosteroids. However, these medications have properties shown to increase the risk for cataracts, especially when you take these drugs for a long time.

If you are taking corticosteroids, ask your doctor about other treatments you can use instead. This is especially important if you meet one or more risk factors for cataracts. If there is no way for you to stop taking these medications, make sure you see your eye doctor regularly for an exam. Your eye doctor can screen you regularly for cataracts.

5. Practice Good Nutrition

Fruits and vegetables are some of many healthy foods that contain antioxidants. Antioxidants can combat free radicals that can lead to cataracts. Healthy foods like these are also loaded with other nutrients that can keep your immune system strong and reduce your risk for all types of diseases.

Eat foods with the following nutrients to reduce your risk for cataracts:

  • Vitamin C, including oranges, kale, and bell peppers.
  • Vitamin E, including leafy greens, almonds, and pumpkin.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin can protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. Foods with these nutrients include peas, dark leafy greens, and red grapes.

Your doctor or nutritionist can talk to you in more detail about foods you can add to your diet to avoid cataracts.

6. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Obesity is a risk factor for cataracts. Excess body fat causes your body to release higher amounts of a hormone called leptin. Too much leptin can damage your eyes to increase the risk for cataracts and other eye problems—including diabetic retinopathy.

Do whatever it takes to lose extra weight or to maintain a healthy weight. A healthy weight can help you avoid cataracts. This may involve beginning an exercise routine or increasing the intensity of your existing one. It may also involve making several changes to your diet, so you consume less sugar and fewer calories.

Talk to your doctor if you need help losing excess weight. Your doctor can discuss your options for treatments, including weight-loss surgery and weight-loss medications.

7. Lower High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is another risk factor for cataracts. According to a 2019 study published in the journal Medicina, high blood pressure could be the most prominent risk factor for this eye disease.

Over time, high blood pressure can damage blood vessels in your eyes. This can put pressure on the optic nerve. This pressure can affect the way your eyes function to cause numerous vision problems, including cataracts.

High blood pressure can often be effectively treated with blood pressure medications. However, there are plenty of other ways you can lower high blood pressure naturally. Losing extra weight, exercising regularly, and reducing your sodium intake are all behaviors that can lower blood pressure. You can also try drinking less alcohol, quitting smoking, and reducing stress.

8. Wear Sunglasses

Too much exposure to the sun and harmful UV rays can damage the proteins in your eyes. This increases the risk for cataracts. Wear quality sunglasses at all times when spending time outdoors to protect your eyes from the sun.

When shopping for sunglasses, choose a pair that blocks out 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. If possible, find sunglasses that also filter out between 75% to 90% of visible blue light. Large sunglasses will often be more effective at protecting your eyes than smaller, fashionable glasses.

If you have a glasses prescription, ask your eye doctor about sunglasses that come with all these features. Your eye doctor may be able to recommend a high-quality brand or order custom sunglasses for your prescription.

If, for some reason, you cannot find protective sunglasses, or if you do not like wearing sunglasses, stick to wearing a wide-brimmed hat. Anything you can do to shield your eyes from the sun can reduce your risk for cataracts.

9. Drink Less Alcohol
Alcohol causes your liver to produce extra amounts of an enzyme that can damage your eyes and cause cataracts. According to a 2015 study published in Optometry and Vision Science, heavy alcohol use significantly increases the risk for cataracts. The study mentioned that moderate alcohol use might even protect you from this eye disease.

Start drinking less alcohol if you tend to drink high amounts. The CDC defines heavy drinking as 15 drinks or more per week if you’re a man and eight drinks or more per week if you’re a woman. Your doctor can talk to you more about how much you can safely drink based on your medical history and health status.

10. Avoid Eye Injuries and Surgery

Having a previous eye injury or surgery will increase your risk of developing cataracts later on. It’s not always possible to avoid eye injuries. Eye injuries can be caused by playing sports, getting in a car accident, or looking directly at the sun. They can also be caused by falling on a sharp object, exposing your eyes to harsh chemicals, or getting popped in the eye by a cork on a champagne bottle.

Eye surgery is used to treat a variety of conditions. Glaucoma, retinal tears, and nearsightedness are eye conditions that may be treated with surgery. The best way to avoid eye surgery is to avoid these conditions in the first place. This involves taking many of the other steps outlined above. Eating healthy foods, exercising regularly, and losing excess weight can help you avoid eye diseases. Avoiding surgery also involves meeting with your eye doctor regularly for examinations.

Managing Your Eye Health At Lompoc Valley Medical Center

At Lompoc Valley Medical Center, we understand that good eye health plays an important role in your quality of life. We are devoted to helping you maintain your eye health and reduce your risk for cataracts. Contact us today at (805) 737-3382 to request an appointment and learn more about our many healthcare services.