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8 Healthy Foods to Reduce Your Risk of CataractsCataracts are cloudy areas that form in the lens inside the eye. This cloudy area obscures vision and, if left untreated, can eventually make it nearly impossible to see out of the affected eye. There are two types of cataracts: age-related and congenital. Age-related cataracts form later in life, but congenital cataracts are usually present either at birth or form shortly afterward. While the reasons for congenital cataracts could range from genetics to some other condition that takes place before a child is born, age-related cataracts can develop in anyone and usually affect elderly people.

Age-related cataracts grow slowly over a period of years. Typically, long-distance vision is impacted initially. After that, the affected person may find it more and more difficult to read or see a TV screen or computer monitor clearly. Night vision is often affected as well. Eventually, if left untreated, the vision will continue to worsen. The only way to resolve the problem is to have the cataract surgically removed. Because of the lack of medical care or proper medical facilities in many third-world countries, people who develop cataracts and live in those areas do not have access to adequate medical care once the condition develops. Because of this, cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in the world today.

Fortunately, most of us within the U.S. do have access to medical care. Still, the great majority of us would no doubt like to avoid cataract surgery if at all possible. Over the past few years, scientific research has given us cause for hope along these lines. In fact, recent studies have shown that there are actually dietary and lifestyle changes we can make that may reduce our risk of cataracts as we grow older. The key to an eye-healthy diet is to get enough of some key vitamins and minerals that contribute to healthy vision.

  • Carrots: You may have thought that this was just an old tale passed down from one generation to the next, but it really is true that carrots are good for your vision—and they reduce your risk for developing cataracts. Carrots contain beta carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A. And vitamin A is one of the essential vitamins that helps reduce your cataract risk. Other good sources for vitamin A are apricots and sweet potatoes.
  • Whole wheat bread: Vitamin B helps to keep your tissues and muscles in healthy condition. Since there are muscles in your eyes, vitamin B also helps to keep your eyes healthy and reduces your risk for cataracts.
  • Oranges: This delicious fruit and other citrus is loaded with vitamin C, which helps to protect your eyes from bright sun and pollution.
  • Strawberries: The delightful little berry is yet another good source of vitamin C, which helps cut down on your cataract risk.
  • Nuts and seeds: You’ll need a healthy dose of vitamin E to help reduce your risk, and nuts and seeds provide plenty of it. But be careful of the salt and calorie content for nuts and seeds. Choose only unsalted varieties, and limit your intake each day to avoid packing away too many calories.
  • Low-fat dairy: Riboflavin (or vitamin B2) is an important part of cutting your risk for cataracts. Specifically, skim milk and low-fat yogurt are both great sources for vitamin B2.
  • Lean protein: Niacin (or vitamin B3) is another important piece of the puzzle when it comes to reducing your cataract risk. There are several sources of lean protein that will provide plenty of this essential vitamin. Chicken breast, turkey breast and wild salmon are all good choices.
  • Dark, leafy vegetables: There are a great variety of leafy, dark vegetables that provide folic acid and calcium, both of which are great health boosters for your eyes. This food group also provides plenty of healthy antioxidants. Spinach and collard greens are two good choices.

There are also certain things you should avoid that will increase your risk. Be careful to limit the amount of salt and fat in your diet. Too much alcohol (more than one drink per day for women or more than two drinks per day for men) will increase your risk for cataracts. Smoking also greatly increases your risk. Try to keep your weight at a healthy level, since obesity will also make you more susceptible. People who have diabetes, get little or no exercise or are exposed to inordinate amounts of bright sunshine have an elevated risk of developing cataracts.

Overall, as is so often the case when it comes to our health, a generally healthy diet combined with plenty of exercise and healthy habits can help you to reduce your risk of cataracts and enjoy unobstructed vision well into your golden years.

 



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