Every year, more than 1.5 million cataract surgeries are performed in the U.S., making it a huge cash cow for the medical industry. But what’s lost in the process is how to prevent cataracts from developing in the first place.
What exactly are cataracts? They’re opacities or blind spots in the lens of the eye that progress dramatically as we age. More than half of all Americans older than 65 have cataracts to some degree. They take months, or even years, to fully form, resulting in blurred vision, and if left untreated can result in blindness.
Tips for Cataract Prevention
Take a good multivitamin. The Physicians’ Health Study of 17,744 U.S. doctors demonstrated that those taking multivitamins, especially those with high concentrations of antioxidants, had a 27 percent decreased risk of developing cataracts.
Supplement with vitamins A and C: Vitamins A and C are antioxidants that are highly concentrated in the eyes and help protect against the onslaught of free radicals, which is important for promoting healthy vision. The recommended daily dosages are: 5,000 IU of vitamin A and 2,500 mg of vitamin C.
Make sure you’re getting enough lutein and zeaxanthin: A 2008 study found that older women who had the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin were about a third less likely to have cataracts. I recommend taking 15–30 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin daily.
Take bilberry: Bilberry acts as a vasodilator, increasing blood flow to the vasculature of the eyes, and increases tissue and capillary wall strength. In one study of 50 patients with cataracts, it stopped the progression of the cataracts in 97 percent of the cases. The recommended daily dose is 320 mg of a bilberry extract standardized to contain 25 percent anthocyanidins.
Take off your sunglasses: The popular notion that the sun’s ultraviolet light (UV) causes cataracts is false. In fact, UV light may actually protect your eyes from cataracts. If you look at the incidence of cataracts around the United States, you’ll see a distinct trend: People living in the Southwest, where UV light is greater than on the East Coast, have fewer cataracts. So let a little sun in your eyes, and make sure you’re getting your antioxidants.
Now it’s your turn: Which of these preventative steps are you taking?