All healthcare professionals must encourage patients to live a healthy lifestyle and maintain a balanced diet. Eye healthcare professionals, specifically, should make sure patients are getting the right types and amounts of vitamins and other nutrients to support eye health. As a recent email update from EyeWorld reminded us, this is especially important for your patients over the age of 50.
EyeWorld cites a review published in the Journal of Clinical Interventions in Aging that says, “Many Americans over the age of 50 do not consume enough key nutrients to support ocular health.” According to a press release on the review, nutrition researcher Elizabeth Johnson, Ph.D., and Helen Rasmussen, Ph.D., R.D. of Lesley University along with other researchers, in an effort to link specific nutrients to eye health as people age, identified antioxidants vitamins C and E, lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc and the omega-3 fatty acids eicosahexaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) among the most important nutrients for protecting aging eyes. This was concluded using data from several surveys, including one from the Ocular Nutrition Society, which revealed 78 percent of adults between the ages of 45 and 65 consider vision as the most important of their senses, but less than half are actually aware of the specific nutrients needed to support ocular health.
Below are a few statistics showing how unaware respondents are about particular nutrients:
- Nearly 60 percent admitted they were unaware of the benefits omega-3 fatty acids offer to the eyes.
- 66 percent didn’t know lutein was important for eye health.
- About 90 percent didn’t know zeaxanthin supports the health of their eyes.
Dr. Johnson shared that many adults don’t even think about the health of their eyes until it is too late, saying, “Our review shows that incorporating proper nutrition into the diet can help adults protect their eye health. It’s a small step that can go a long way.”
Registered dietitian Keri Gans shared several foods that can be incorporated into an adult’s diet that contain the nutrients they need for healthy eyes. These include kale, spinach, and corn (for lutein and zeaxanthin); citrus fruits and berries (vitamin C); wheat germ and nuts (vitamin E); beef and legumes (zinc); salmon and tuna (omega-3 fatty acids); and carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potato (beta-carotene).
Of course, another very important step in ocular health is regular eye exams. Remind patients that the combination of good diet and regular eye exams can help support healthy eyes, as well as detect any problems in their earliest stages.
How do you encourage patients to include nutrients that support ocular health into their diet? Leave a comment below to share with us!