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Keep common eye problems at bay

Here's how you can keep common eye problems at bay

Studies say one in 12 will be blind or partially sighted by the age of 60. Thankfully, there are a few lifestyle changes to help keep this at bay for 20 per cent longer:

General wear and tear
'Long-arm syndrome' — where you can't see a newspaper close up or need extra light to read — is due to a number of factors, including natural ageing. The lens inside our eye begins to stiffen from about age 10 but it isn't until we reach our mid to late 40s that we start noticing problems trying to focus when reading or doing close-up work. However, exposure to UV light, poor diet, smoking and lack of exercise, have a negative impact on vision. Genetic factors, like the quality of our parents' eyesight, can indicate how well our eyes will age. Keep your eyes young: While you can't halt the ageing process, you can slow it down with a healthy diet of antioxidant vitamins A, C and E — plenty of citrus fruits, green leafy veggies, and almonds.

Age-related macular degeneration - AMD
AMD is a condition that attacks the macula (the part of the retina responsible for central vision), robbing the individual of the ability to see detail, such as recognising people's faces. There are two forms of AMD — wet and dry. The dry form develops gradually and isn't treatable, but the wet form happens earlier, so diagnosis and treatment is crucial. Keep your eyes young: Quit smoking, as it doubles your chances of developing AMD. US studies have also found being overweight increases your risk. A diet rich in leafy green vegetables, brightly coloured fruits and oily fish may help. Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, US, found those with an active lifestyle were 70 per cent less likely to develop AMD.

Glaucoma
The risk of glaucoma increases sharply from 40 years. It happens when too much fluid pressure builds up inside the eye, damaging the optic nerve. Peripheral vision goes first, so you're initially often not aware of sight loss. Screening tests are, therefore, vital to detect glaucoma before there is significant loss of vision. Left untreated, it will lead to blindness.
Keep your eyes young: Antioxidantrich green tea may protect against glaucoma. Stay active — aerobic exercise reduces intraocular eye pressure, which can help control it.

Dry eyes
This syndrome covers a number of conditions characterised by a lack of tear production. As a result, the eye is dry and painful. Central heating, air conditioning and regular computer use make it worse. It is believed that 15 per cent of adults over the age of 40 years have dry eye and it affects twice as many women as men. Keep your eyes young: Omega 3 in oily fish, walnuts and sesame seeds can help produce better tear fluid. Flaxseed and evening primrose oil may also help. Avoid sitting too close to your computer. Mascara can also cause dry eye so throw away any old eye make-up.

Cataracts
Most common in the 60s, this is a clouding of the lens of the eye. It happens when the protein fibres that make up the lens undergo chemical changes. Keep your eyes young: Diabetes, smoking, excessive exposure to sunlight and high blood pressure are all linked to cataracts, as is a diet high in saturated fat and eating ready meals. Some studies have found a link between a lower risk of cataracts and eating foods rich in vitamin E (wholegrains, nuts and eggs) and C (oranges and kiwi fruit).

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