From the Smarty Health Corner and CEENTA: Conversations on aging healthily
By our Smarty friends at Charlotte Eye Ear Nose & Throat Associates, P.A.
We’re all getting older, and all of us, our parents included, want to age healthily and gracefully. There is a lot of information out there about healthy living, and at times it can be overwhelming. So, we’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of a few lifestyle changes you can talk with your parents about that could have significant impacts on their health.
Most people think that a healthy diet is just good for weight and blood pressure, but it can be good for your eyes, too. Macular degeneration and cataracts are two of the leading causes of vision loss in America, but a good diet may help prevent them. Studies show that vitamins like zinc, beta-carotene, vitamin E, and antioxidants can protect your eyes’ light receptors and potentially reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Vitamin A, C, E, and zinc can protect the cornea and may slow the development of cataracts. Also, Omega 3 fatty acids and Vitamin A have been shown to protect against dry eye. Talking to your parents about eating foods with these vitamins – like green leafy vegetables, oranges, berries, flax seeds, and walnuts – could help them find delicious ways to protect their eyes.
“Watching what goes into your body is the best way to keep your vision sharp for a lifetime,” CEENTA Ophthalmologist Joshua Rheinbolt, MD, said.
Blocking out the sun
Sunlight, specifically, UV light, can lead to the development of cataracts, macular degeneration, and growths around the eyes. Therefore, you may want to consider talking to your parents about wearing sun protection while outside. Sunglasses, specifically those that block out 99 to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB radiation, are the best choice for eye protecting. Wearing a wide-brimmed hat along with sunglasses while outside is also a good way for your parents to protect their eyes from UV rays.
Their eyes, their ears, and their mental health
Depression has ties to a number of health concerns, and a loss of vision or hearing can contribute to depression in the older population. For example, studies have shown that people with untreated cataracts have a higher rate of depression than those who do not. Also, hearing loss has been tied to social withdrawal and depression. This is because seeing and hearing are major factors in people’s independence and ability to enjoy activities, and the loss of that independence and activity can lead to depression.
“Blindness separates people from things; deafness separates people from people,” CEENTA ENT Ancillary Services Director Dawn Hulthen Koncsol, AuD, said.
It’s important to note, though, that there can be a number of factors contributing to a person’s depression, and treating hearing or vision loss aren’t cures for depression. Still, talking with your parents about their vision and hearing could help them understand why they may be experiencing depression, and treating those issues could contribute to them feeling better.
As you get older, you’re more at risk for diabetes. Diabetes can lead to permanent eye damage if left untreated. Patients can develop several eye problems, including diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, and double vision.
Diabetes can also cause problems with your ears. When diabetes affects the blood vessels throughout the body, it damages the vessels in your ears. While other parts of the body can use alternate blood supplies, the ears cannot. Diabetes also damages nerves, which can cause ear problems. Not only can diabetes affect your hearing, but it can affect your balance, too, since the ears are an important factor in maintaining balance.
A discussion with your parents about the importance of maintaining a proper diet and healthy lifestyle is key to helping prevent the development of diabetes. If they do develop diabetes, it is important to talk to them about tightly controlling their blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol control. It is also a good idea they get regular checkups to make sure diabetes isn’t affecting their eyes and ears.
While none of us can avoid getting older, a few conversations with our parents can help make aging easier and healthier.
To make an appointment for eye or ENT care at CEENTA, call 704-295-3000.