Eye Health for 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ
As the old proverb goes, “our eyes are the windows to our souls.” It’s a good idea to pay attention to our eye health as we age, to keep those windows clean and clear. Although our eyes will naturally deteriorate some over time, taking good care of them will extend the life of healthy vision. Here are some eye health tips for 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ.
How Eyes Work
The eye is the incredibly complex sensory organ that allows us to see. What follows is a very condensed explanation of how eyes translate images of the world.
The eye works by allowing in light rays through the pupil. The light passes through the cornea and lens. The light then registers on the retinas, at the back of the eyes, to create upside down, two-dimensional images. These images are then converted into electrical impulses, transported via the optic nerve from either eye, into the brain where they are interpreted — and flipped right side up.
The overlapping field of vision of either eye is what gives us depth perception. The elasticity of the lens is what allows us to focus at different distances. To focus on distant objects, the lens flattens and thins. To focus on nearby objects, the muscles in the eye contract and the lens becomes more rounded. The elasticity of the lens diminishes over time, which is one reason sharp eye sight diminishes with age.
Let’s take a look at some of the common eye disorders that come with age.
Age Related Eye Diseases
It’s important for 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ to be aware of the common eye diseases that effect elders, so you know what to watch out for.
- Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD): AMD is the leading cause of blindness and vision impairment. It is caused when the macula, the nerve cells that focus images, change shape or break down. In advanced stages, blood vessels can begin to grow where they don’t belong. With AMD, it is difficult to focus on objects, both near and far. Fine details are difficult to see and straight lines can appear broken. Dark spots or shadows can appear in your line of vision.
- Cataracts: Cataracts happen when the lens that focuses light becomes cloudy. This is common with age. A common surgery can remove the cloudy lens and replace it with a clear plastic lens.
- Glaucoma: When pressure builds up in the eye, it causes damage to the nerve cells that carry images to the brain. It is not painful, but results in a slow loss of vision.
- Diabetic retinopathy (DR): Diabetes can result in “leaky” blood vessels. When the blood vessels in the eyes leak, vision becomes blurry. In worse case scenarios, vessels break open resulting in permanent vision loss.
- Dry Eye: A common condition with age, dry eye results when the eye is not producing enough tears. It can lead to pain and scarring on the cornea. Eye drops and gels are commonly prescribed for this condition.
Keep in mind that diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease increase the risk of eye diseases.
Caring for Eyes
How can 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ support eye health? There are a number of ways, including rest, exercise, protection and proper nutrition.
Ultraviolet light is extremely damaging to the eyes. Wear sunglasses with full UV protection that cover your eyes entirely. It’s also smart to wear a hat, as the brim will prevent any rays from sneaking in.
Nutrients for Eyes
Vitamin A & Zinc
Zinc is a mineral found in high concentrations in the eye. It plays a vital role in transporting Vitamin A from the liver to the eyes.
Vitamin A is essential for producing melanin, which is the pigment that protects the eyes. Vit. A also supports night vision, and maintains a healthy, clear cornea.
Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause cell damage. They can come from sunlight, pollution and cigarette smoke.
Lutein & Zeaxanthin
The most important antioxidants for eye health include Lutein and Zeaxanthin, both of which are found in large amounts in the macula of the eye. They protect against excessive light damage. It seems that they protect the eyes from ultraviolet light by increasing the pigment density in the macula thus protecting the retina.
Numerous studies have indicated that getting high intakes of Lutein and Zeaxanthin through supplementation or diet can prevent and improve macular degeneration.
Vitamin C & Vitamin E
These are both important antioxidants for overall health, including the eyes. They may lower the risk of developing cataracts.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
The omega 3 fatty acids are essential for eye development and help to maintain retinol functioning. They can also help prevent dry eye.
Now that we’ve covered the nutrients that are essential for eye health, let’s look at top eye friendly foods that you can incorporate into your diet.
- Leafy greens: Kale is by far the greatest source of lutein and zeaxanthin with spinach and collard greens coming in after.
- Blueberries: high in vitamins C, A, E, and zinc
- Carrots: Vitamin A, lutein
- Sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans: high in vit E
- Wheat germ: high in Vit. E
- Fatty fish: high in Omega 3
- Sweet potatoes: high in Vit. A
Rest Your Eyes
Besides feeding your eyes healthy foods, they will also benefit from frequent breaks. When you’re reading, pause every 30 minutes to look into the distance or shut them for a few minutes. This will help limit eye strain and eye fatigue.
If you really want to give your eyes a treat, place a “mask” on top of them. For example, if you want a cooling sensation, place cucumbers. These are classics for eyes — though primarily for the skin around the eye. They reduce swelling and black circles. But they are also very soothing to the actual eyeball.
If, on the other hand, you’re craving warmth, try a green tea or chamomile tea bag, after it’s been soaked in hot water. Make sure it is cool enough that it won’t burn you and place over closed eyes. They are wonderful for soothing irritated and red eyes. You can even use the filtered chamomile tea as an eye rinse!
Weighted eye pillows can also be incredibly relaxing, for a simpler (and dry!) method to relax the teye. Treating your eyes to a relaxing rest is wonderful for 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ.
It may sound silly, but eye yoga is a thing. And it’s very helpful. It is essentially eye stretches and exercises aimed at keeping your eyes healthy.
To do eye yoga, first look as far to your right as possible, keeping your head facing forward. You want to try to look behind yourself, without moving anything but your eyes. You should feel a nice stretch in your eyeball.
After some moments pass, return your eyes to center and close them for a rest . Rub your hand together and place the palms over your eyes, without touching.
No open your eyes and look up to the sky as far as you can, as if you are rolling your eyes into the back of your head. Come back to center and rest. Continue in every direction: to the left, then down, then the diagonals, pausing between each stretch for a rest.
Next, roll your eyes in a full circle while stretching them out to the edges. Roll them three times in each direction.
After resting, you can do focus exercises. Put your thumb in front of your face and let your eyes focus on it. Now move it close to your eyes, pausing to let your eyes focus. Move your thumb away from your eyes, as far you can, and let it focus. Continue moving it close and far away in slow increments, letting your eyes focus each time.
Look into the Distance
We are a culture that spends a significant amount of time focused on things very close to our faces. Reading, looking at phones and computers and watching TV are all close up activities. Take more time to gaze into the distance. Look at the farthest thing — out at the horizon over the sea or down the street as far as you can see.
Muscles in the eyes contract when looking at things close up, and soften when you look at things far away. Therefore, looking into the distance relaxes your eyes. It will also maintain eyesight. You don’t want to lose your farsightedness from lack of use!
Avoid Excessive Blue Light & Computer Screens
While bluelight is a natural part of the sun’s range of light ray colors, doctors are concerned that modern people get an excessive dose of this damaging light. Computer and TV screens shine blue light at a close proximity. The eyes are not very good at blocking blue light, which can damage the light sensitive cells in the retina, increasing chances of developing AMD.
Blue light also scatters more quickly than other light colors (also why the sky is blue!). Screens with excessive blue light reduce contrast, make focus more difficult, and contribute to eye strain.
Computer glasses that filter the blue light can be extremely beneficial for prolonged screen time.
20-20-20 Rule: This is an eye exercise to implement when working on the computer. Every 20 minutes, remove your gaze from the computer and focus on something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This can reduce eye strain.
Visit Your Eye Doctor
As always, it’s important for 55 and over communities in Ocean County, NJ to stay abreast of changes in vision and eye health with regular visits to the doctor.
Join us at Barnegat 67, a luxury community for 55 and over. With beautiful apartments and a rooftop lounge where you can rest your eyes with friends, you’ll find an easy and happy lifestyle awaiting you!