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In honor of Save Your Vision Month, celebrated each March, Dr. S. Moshe Roth and staff at Family Eye Care want to remind you about the importance of healthy eating habits for optimum eye health.

More than 22 million Americans suffer from cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the two leading causes of visual loss and blindness. "Because cataracts require costly surgery and treatment options for AMD are currently limited, preventive measures play a particularly important role in maintaining good eye health," said Dr. Roth.

Based on research by the National Eye Institute, in addition to countless clinical trials, studies and surveys, there is a positive correlation between good nutrition and the prevention of AMD and cataracts. Studies have suggested that by eating foods rich in six nutrients -- antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E and zinc -- you can protect your eyes from disease. In other words, healthy eating habits can mean healthy eyes.

So, what type of foods are EYE HEALTHY? If you are familiar with the link between carrots and good eye health, then you have done some homework. Let's explore other foods that can benefit your eyes. These are foods that contain the six key nutrients for eye health.

Most fruits and vegetables are great sources of vitamin C, including oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, papaya, green peppers and tomatoes.

Vitamin E is more difficult to obtain from food sources, since it is found in very small quantities. However, good food sources include vegetable oils (safflower and corn oil), almonds, pecans, wheat germ and sunflower seeds.

Beta-carotene is present in dark green leafy vegetables (spinach!), deep orange or yellow fruits (carrots, mangos, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, apricots, and peaches), vegetables and fortified cereals.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found together in many food sources. Dark green leafy vegetables are the primary sources of lutein and zeaxanthin (kale, collard greens and spinach), but they are also present in lesser amount in other colorful fruits and vegetables, such as broccoli, orange peppers, corn, peas, persimmons and tangerines.

Good food sources of zinc include meat, liver, shellfish, milk, whole grains and wheat germ.

Eating healthy for your eyes could be the most promising means of protecting your eyes from AMD and cataracts. In addition, planning menus rich in the nutrients described above can mean better overall health for you and your family. Consider eating eye healthy foods and gain benefits for your whole body.

Protect Your Eyes From The Sun To Keep Them Healthy

It is also important to protect your eyes from the damaging rays of the sun. "The sun's damaging effects are a concern year round regardless of what the temperature is outside," said Dr. Roth

In addition to visible light, the sun gives off ultraviolet radiation. This radiation is divided into three types: UV-A, UV-B, and UV-C. The earth's ozone layer absorbs UV-C radiation, leaving sunglasses to protect against UV-A and UV-B rays.

Studies indicate that long-term exposure to UV-A and UV-B can contribute to the development of cataracts; retinal problems; benign growths on the eye's surface; cancer of the eyelids and skin around the eyes; and photokeratitis, a temporary but painful sunburn of the eye's surface.

"The sun's brightness creates a disabling glare that interferes with comfortable vision and the ability to see clearly," adds Dr. Roth. It causes eyes to squint and to water. This glare occurs on cloudy as well as sunny days. On snowy days, sunglasses reduce the reflected glare that occurs when the sun's light bounces off snow.

The best protection against the sun's damaging rays is consistent use of sunglasses. Use the following tips when selecting your next pair of sunglasses. For optimum sun protection, the sunglasses should:
block out 99-100 percent of both UV-A and UV-B radiation
screen out 75-90 percent of visible light (fashion-tinted lenses usually do not meet this level)
be perfectly matched in color and free of distortion and imperfection
have gray, green, or brown lenses (gray is recommended)

Children and teenagers are particularly susceptible to the sun's damaging rays because they typically spend more time outdoors than adults and the lenses of their eyes are more transparent than those of adults. Thus, this allows more UV radiation to reach the retinas of children and teenagers (the retina is the light sensitive layer at the back of the eyes.) The effects of UV radiation are cumulative, so it's important to develop good protection habits early in life.

Give yourself the gift of healthy vision with a great pair of sunglasses-your eyes will love you for it.

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