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Take Care of Your Eyes

Unfortunately, diabetics are especially at risk for eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma and macular degeneration.

Diabetes is one of the leading causes of blindness among adults and almost ½ of people with diabetes will develop some degree of diabetic eye disease. Diabetic eye disease can range from cataracts, glaucoma to macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, which is a condition that occurs when the small vessels which nourish the retina deteriorate.

But the good news is that there are many things that you can do to safeguard your vision.

Eye diseases that cause vision loss often do not have symptoms. That is why early detection and timely treatment of diabetic eye disease can greatly reduce the risk of vision loss and blindness. Anyone with diabetes should have an eye exam with dilated pupils at least once a year.

Maintaining good blood sugar control is also a first line of defense when it comes to protecting your vision. For people with diabetes, having consistently high blood sugar levels increases the risk of diabetic retinopathy, while good control can prevent or slow the condition.

A diet that includes colorful fruits such as blueberries, kiwi fruit, and avocados along with dark leafy greens, nuts, fatty, cold water fish and foods low on the glycemic index is the foundation for good eye health. Studies are now showing that eating foods rich in a two different types of antioxidants classified as cartenoids and flavanoids may be especially beneficial for protecting our eyes against disease.

We all grew up being told to eat our carrots because they are good for our eyes. That’s because they are a rich source of beta-carotene, the plant based building block for Vitamin A, which is required to form the visual pigment that allows people to see in the dark.

Two lesser know cartenoids, that are now being seen as playing an important role in eye health are lutein and zeaxanthin. Don’t let the fancy names throw you. It is easy to find these nutrients in dark leafy greens such as kale, spinach and collards, colorful fruits and vegetables such as kiwi and orange bell peppers and in egg yolks. And for variety, you can always substitute kale or another green for spinach.

Flavanoids are another type of antioxidant that may improve circulation to the retina and help with the problem of leakiness or breaking of the small blood vessels that supply blood to the retina. That is why studies are now showing that the nutrients in foods such as blueberries, bilberry and grapeseed extract may also be beneficial to eye health, especially in slowing the progression of diabetic retinopathy.

Getting nutrients from foods is always the best choice. But, if you are worried about getting enough eye protecting nutrients from your diet, there are many excellent supplements that contain lutein and zeaxanthin. If possible, try to find a supplement that also includes a flavanoid such as bilberry.

Bottom line: Make sure to visit your eye doctor at least once a year for a full eye exam, eat a rainbow of vegetables with lots of greens, and if needed, take a good eye health supplement. All of these measures will go a long way towards protecting the health of your eyes.

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