Every year, millions of cataract surgeries are performed in the US, making it a huge cash cow for the medical industry. But what’s lost in the process is how to prevent cataracts in the first place.
Before I share my tips for cataract prevention, it is helpful to understand what cataracts are exactly. Cataracts are 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. Cataracts take months, or even years, to fully form, resulting in blurred vision, and if left untreated they can result in blindness.
How to Prevent Cataracts
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 if you want to prevent cataracts and promote healthy vision. The recommended daily dosages are: 5,000 IU of vitamin A (as beta-carotene) 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 a minimum of 30 mg of a bilberry extract standardized to contain 25 percent anthocyanidins.
Take off your sunglasses: There’s no doubt that excessive exposure to ultraviolet light (UV) can damage your eyes. Specficially, it can cause the conjunctiva, which covers the whites of your eyes, to thicken, thereby contributing to the development of cataracts and retinal damage. But wearing sunglasses all the time blocks wavelengths of light that not only nourish the eyes but are essential for overall good health. So let a little sun in your eyes, and make sure you’re getting your antioxidants.
Now it’s your turn: Which of these steps to prevent cataracts are you taking?