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Eye Care Tips For Post 50s: 5 Surprising Things That Are Bad For Your Vision

May 22, 2013 | Updated May 22, 2013
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Eyesight naturally changes as we age. As we grow older, our eyes go from being able to refocus easily to having a harder time seeing detail, explained Dr. Rachel Bishop of the National Eye Institute. "People who used to be able to see well at distances and close up in their 20s will need glasses for reading by their mid-40s."

But while glasses can help, there's another category of eye problems that post 50s may unwittingly be making worse: eye disease.

"The most common eye diseases all increase with age starting at about age 40 to 50," Bishop told The Huffington Post. "The prevalance of glaucoma, cataracts and dry eye begin to present themselves over the age of 40."

Caught in time these problems can be addressed before they cause severe vision loss, but there are a number of behaviors that can hurt aging eyes more than they help them. Here are five surprising ways you're hurting your vision:

1. Smoking

We all know the damage smoking can do to your body, but many may not realize the effect the bad habit has on your eyes, Bishop said. It can increase your risk of suffering from cataracts and retinal diseases that lead to vision loss. It also makes existing eye problems -- age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and optic nerve damage worse.

"Smoking seems to affect circulation. As we get older, life forces tend to challenge our circulatory systems -- add smoking to it" and it's even worse, she said. That's because having healthy circulation of blood to your eyes means your eyes are getting the oxygen and nutrients they need to prevent eye diseases and eye stress, according to LiveStrong.com.

2. UV Exposure

"We lather our kids in sunscreen and we know about skin cancer," said Bishop, "[but] UV light damages eye structures" as well.

Similar to how it causes damage to the skin, UV light damages your DNA which leads to cellular damage, Bishop explained. "The body has repair mechanisms, but over time these damages accumulate and the body can't compensate after a certain point. You [then] see damage to the surface structures and the deep structures [of your eye], like your retina."

3. Accidental, Everyday Trauma

The laundry list of things Dr. Bishop says she has had to pull out of patients' eyes is pretty squirm inducing. But these aren't from major accidents -- they're from everyday chores.

"If you're out mowning the lawn, or you're working on the car, or you're grinding on a metal drill, or 100 [other] recreational or household chores, you're exposing your eyes to a risk of trauma," Bishop said.

4. Not Taking Proper Care Of Your Overall Health

Things like managing your cholesterol and blood pressure can improve your eyesight, Bishop told The Huffington Post.

"These things all contribute to eye health. If the person has high blood pressure, they're at a higher risk for having damage to the eye that can lead to vision loss. There are certain eye diseases associated with diabetes and high blood pressure." In the case of diabetic retinopathy, damage to the eye's blood vessels as a result of diabetes, the National Eye Institute recommends stopping the disease's progression by controlling "their levels of blood sugar, blood pressure and blood cholesterol."

5. Computers and iPads

Though the effect technology has on our eyes has been well-documented, it's worth noting again, Bishop said.

"A few things happen when you stare at a computer," Bishop said. "When people do concentrated near work they tend to not blink as often as when they're doing more active activities. Your eye is focused on one spot for a long time, and your eye muscle may fatigue and feel a sense of strain.

"Computer work [also] has you sitting up a little bit," she continued. "When you're looking up, your eyes are wider and there's more evaporation of eye fluid, encouraging dry eye and eye strain."

Impaired vision is not a normal part of aging, Bishop stressed. Here's how you can take control of your eye health.

Make an appointment for an eye exam.

"A lot of people take their good vision for granted. Unless they have a problem, they don't think about what they should do to get their eye health looked at," Bishop said.

This is especially problematic because there aren't early warning signs for some eye disease, she explained.

"Without that eye exam we can't identify a problem and treat it. So much of blindess and vision loss is preventable, but the key is early detection. I have a number of patients with severe vision loss because they had glaucoma that they didn't get treated sooner."

Practice good eyecare safety at work and at play.

Wear sunglasses that have UV protection, Bishop advised. And when picking your shades, make sure you look at pairs that block 99-100 percent of UVA and UVB light, along with other eye-protecting features, according to WebMD. Also make sure to invest in a pair of safety goggles to keep twigs, leaves and other debris from your eyes during household chores like mowing, or if you have a labor-intensive job.

Nutrition, nutrition, nutrition.

"Nutrients that are found in green leafy vegetables and omega-3 fatty acids seem to be particularly helpful for dry eye problems," Bishop said. There are a number of foods that promote better vision, including nuts, seafood and quinoa.

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