How Age-Related Night Vision Problems Affect Driving

by Health News

People in their 50s, 60s, and 70s are more active than ever, which means record numbers of seniors are taking to the roadways.  While maintaining an active lifestyle in later years is definitely a good thing, vision changes that come with aging can impair driving, especially at night.  Statistics show that diminished night vision can be a serious hazard when it comes to traffic accidents, but learning how night vision problems affect driving can help.

Night vision problems begin to develop gradually as people age.

Aging and the Development of Night Vision Problems

As people age, pupils begin to shrink, which means they don't dilate as much in fading light or darkness.  This lowers the amount of light that enters the eye, which can have an effect similar to wearing sunglasses at night. 

Aging also affects the cornea and lens within the eye.  Overall vision becomes less clear and light scatters inside the eye, increasing glare.  Contrast sensitivity, or the ability to detect slight differences in brightness, also deteriorates as people get older.

Research published in Investigative Ophthalmology and Visual Science showed that some people develop optical imperfections called higher-order aberrations as they age.  Unfortunately, these imperfections reduce visual acuity, particularly at night, and they cannot be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. 

Related:  Antioxidants and Vision Health: Three Factors that Could Affect Your Vision

The Failure of Eye Testing

Often, the decline in vision for aging individuals is so gradual that they don't notice it.  According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, older people may test well at the DMV or at the eye doctor's office, but still struggle with night vision problems.  Dimming light or darkness reduces vision for traffic signs, cars, and pedestrians. 

Additional Visual Problems that Come with Aging

While all seniors experience certain optical changes, some people develop additional conditions that can contribute to night vision problems.  According to the Vision Council, one third of Americans over the age of 40 suffer from age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, or cataracts.  

Management and Prevention of Age-Related Vision Problems

When it comes to staying safe while driving, the following tips can help aging individuals:

  • Reduce speed and limit driving to daytime hours.
  • Use extra caution at intersections, particularly when making a left turn.
  • Scan from side-to-side slightly while driving to compensate for reduced peripheral vision.
  • Avoid eyeglasses and sunglasses with wide frames that can restrict peripheral vision.
  • Participate in a driving course for seniors.

While some optical changes are an inevitable part of aging, people can reduce risks for developing serious eye problems by scheduling regular eye exams and maintaining a healthy lifestyle.  A nutritious diet and eye vitamins may help reduce risks for certain eye conditions.


Who Gets Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

by IVL Products

Loss of visual acuity is normal as we age. The most common cause of vision loss is in this country is due to age-related macular degeneration or AMD and there is no known cure. Knowing who is at the highest risk for developing age-related macular degeneration can help you determine your risk factors and take steps to delay or possibly avoid it.

Who Gets Age-Related Macular Degeneration?

High Risk Factors for AMD

While AMD can affect anyone at any time, it is most common in adults over the age of 60.

Others at risk are:

  • Anyone with a family history of the disease
  • Smokers
  • People with high blood pressure
  • People with high cholesterol
  • Those who are obese
  • Being a light skinned female with a light eye color 

What Is AMD: Symptoms

Age-related macular degeneration is when the central portion of the retina, which is at the back of the eye, begins to deteriorate and a small blurry spot develops in your vision.  The macula is in the central part of the retina and responsible for focusing central vision in the eye. In some people AMD progresses slowly, in others, much more quickly. There are two kinds of AMD:

  1. Dry – this form of AMD is the most common and the cause is not entirely known. Small white or yellowish spots form on the retina and cause it to deteriorate over time
  2. Wet—while less common, many who start with dry AMD progress to wet or neovascular AMD.  Wet macular degeneration is caused by abnormal blood vessels under the retina that break, bleed and leak fluid, damaging the macula and causing it to lift away from its base. This type of AMD usually results in rapid and almost total loss of central vision.

The most common symptom of AMD is the formation of a dark, blurry spot over the center of the eye and a diminished capacity to perceive colors. If you think you might be developing AMD see your eye doctor right away for a definite diagnosis.

Related:  Natural Ways to Strengthen Your Eyesight

How to Reduce Your Risk of AMD

If you are at risk for developing age-related macular degeneration there are several things you can be doing now that could help delay the onset and severity of symptoms.

  • Stop smoking - for so many other reasons as well
  • Lose weight – obesity is a common risk factor for AMD
  • Get high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels under control; this goes hand in hand with losing weight and these two conditions put you at risk for many other fatal diseases.
  • Clean up your diet – recent studies have shown the positive affect eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids (fish, walnuts, olive oil) and dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, arugula) can have on slowing AMD from developing.  Foods rich in vitamins C, E, zinc, copper lutein and zeaxanthin are the best for preventing AMD.
  • Supplements – researchers at the National Eye Institute found that of supplements with higher than average doses of vitamin C, E, zinc oxide, copper, beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin reduced the risk of developing late AMD, like after age 60.

It should be noted that beta-carotene has been linked to an increased risk of lung cancer so if you are a smoker or ex-smoker you should not take it.  Consult your doctor about the safe amount of these supplements and seek out foods rich in these nutrients to help you avoid or delay age related macular degeneration.


Selenium and Vitamins for Cataracts

by Cindy Gray

Many vitamins have important roles in treating or preventing various medical conditions. Just as in science, where a combination of substances can produce a different or stronger effect by working together, so too a combination of vitamins can be more powerful and effective when they work together. This exponential benefit, when the combined effect of two or more substances is greater than their separate effects, is called "synergy".

Vision Problems: Selenium and Vitamins for CataractsWhen it comes to healthy eyes, scientists have found that some vitamins work synergistically together to slow down or prevent the development of cataracts and other vision problems.

What are Cataracts?

Cataracts are a clouding condition in the lens of the eye that gradually reduces vision. Cataracts are usually age-related and by the age of 80, half of all adults will either have cataracts or will have had surgery to remove them.

Cataracts usually affect one eye more than the other but they do not spread and cannot be "caught" like an infection. Instead they gradually develop and require the lens to be replaced with an artificial intraocular lens under a simple surgical procedure.

The risk of developing cataracts is higher if you smoke, expose your eyes to bright sunlight or are diabetic. Some of these risks can be controlled or prevented but studies show you can also lessen your chance of getting a cataract by eating certain vitamins.

Related: How to Avoid Macular Degeneration Naturally

C is for Cataract!

Vitamin C has been shown to prevent or slow the progression of cataracts, along with vitamin E. As our levels of these vitamins decline with age, it’s important to take them either through diet or supplements. Research has shown that people with a diet high both in these vitamins have a lower risk of cataracts and other vision problems, suggesting these vitamins work synergistically together for good eye health.

Vitamin C is found in many fruits including oranges, blueberries, papaya, guava, strawberries, sweet peppers and spinach. Good sources of vitamin E are almonds, sunflower seeds, broccoli, peanuts, tomatoes and similarly in spinach and blueberries. Both these vitamins are high in antioxidants that neutralize free radicals in the body and help reduce oxidative stress. 

Other vitamins that have been found to be effective against cataracts include thiamine (vitamin B1), riboflavin (B2) and niacin (B3). What is most interesting is that it is a combination of these vitamins that appear to be most effective in preventing or slowing the rate of cataracts, suggesting they work in synergy for maximum effect.

Studies on Cataracts and Vitamin Intake

A study by Professor Paul Jacques at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University was held on 112 older patients.  The study found that 77 of them had cataracts while 35 did not. However, those with low levels of vitamin C were 11 times more likely to have a cataract than those with higher levels. In fact, the highest concentration of vitamin C in the body is found in the eye and it appears to be a protective agent on eye health. Jacques' study also found that those who ate less than 3.5 servings of fruit and vegetables a day were 13 times more likely to develop cataracts.

A Nurses Health Study in the U.S. found that women who regularly ate vegetables, fresh fruit and whole grains (i.e. a diet high in antioxidants including vitamins C and E) were half as likely to develop cataracts as those who ate less healthily. However, when the study gave patients vitamin supplements, they did not appear to have the same beneficial effect on arresting cataract development. This may be because getting vitamins from your diet means they can act in synergy with other vitamins and nutrients, making them more effective.

Although no single vitamin is a magic "cure" for cataracts, one thing is for sure, getting a range of vitamins B, C and E from your 5-portions-a-day diet appears to reduce the quantity and severity of cataracts, and it certainly won't do you any harm at all!


Lower the Risk of Falling

by Health News

Lower the Risk of FallingA study of around 5,000 older men has shown that experiencing stressful life events - such as the death of a loved one, or being mired in serious financial problems - significantly raised risk of falling.

Researchers at the VA Medical Center in Minneapolis conducted a study of 4,981 community-dwelling men over the age of 65, who were enrolled in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (MrOS) study in six locations spread across the US. These men returned for a second visit and answered questions on stressful life events in the prior year. Finally, they also self-reported complete data on falls for one year after the second visit.

During the second visit, participants were asked about their marital status - and if widowed, their spouse's date of death. They were also asked to report the occurrence of any of the following stressful life events: serious illness or accident of wife/partner; death of other close relative or close friend; separation from child, close friend, or other relative on whom the participant depended on for help; loss of a pet; having to give up an important hobby or interest; being mired in serious financial troubles; move or change in residence.

Following the second visit, the participants were contacted every four months for one year regarding falls or fractures. Any fractures were confirmed by central review of radiography reports. Overall response rates exceeded 99%.

Among the men with complete stressful life event and falls data, nearly 28% fell - while nearly 15% fell multiple times during the year after visit two. Among men who reported stressful life events, falls occurred in nearly 30% of cases where one type of stressful event had been reported; 35% of cases with two types of stressful events, and nearly 40% of cases where three or more types of stressful life events were reported.

Overall, any stressful life event was associated with a 41% increase in risk of fall, and a nearly two-fold increase in risk for multiple falls in the following year. The study authors did not notice any statistically significant increase of risk for fractures.

This appears to be the first study to examine the association between stressful life events and the risk of falls. It provides strong evidence supporting stressful life events as a risk factor for falls. However, the underlying mechanism connecting stressful life events to falls still remains unclear.

One possible explanation is that stressful events cause stress hormones to be released, leading to falls and other adverse health events. It may also be that inflammation - a potential indicator of physical stress - could lead to a loss of muscle mass and impaired physical function. Or perhaps sudden emotions, triggered by a stressful event, could impact balance or visual attention, leading to a fall.

Further studies are needed to confirm these findings and to understand the mechanism underlying this association - and to answer the question whether clinical screening of older men with recent stressful life events can reduce the incidence of falls.

Other related blog posts:

How To Avoid Macular Degeneration...Eat Your Leafy Greens

Loneliness takes a toll on health and longevity

Another Clue to Longevity


Stressful Life Events Can Raise the Risk of Falls in Older Men


How To Avoid Macular Degeneration...Eat Your Leafy Greens

by Health News

How To Avoid Macular Degeneration...Eat Your Leafy GreensYou already know that leafy greens like spinach and kale are incredibly good for you—loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. But here’s a new one: Leafy greens contain high levels of the important carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which are known to protect the eyes against macular degeneration, and, according to the results of a recent study*, also seem to protect older people’s eyes from cataracts.

Jouni Karppi and Sudhir Kurl at the University of Eastern Finland in Kuopio and Jari Laukkanen of Lapland Central Hospital in Rovaniemi, Finland report that increased plasma levels of the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with a lower risk of cataract in older men and women.

For the study, blood plasma samples from 1,130 men and 559 women were collected between 2005 and 2008 and were analyzed for alpha tocopherol, vitamin A and carotenoids. Among subjects whose lutein levels were among the top one-third of participants, there was a 42 percent lower risk of being diagnosed with nuclear cataract, and for those whose zeaxanthin levels were among the top third, the risk was 41 percent lower compared to subjects whose plasma levels were in the lowest third.

While three previous studies have found an association between reduced risk of nuclear cataract and higher consumption of lutein and zeaxanthin, the current study's authors note that a recent FDA review concluded that there was no credible evidence to support a protective effect for lutein or zeaxanthin on cataract risk. However, Dr Karppi and colleagues remark that there are factors that could explain previous inconsistent study results.

"We observed that high concentrations of lutein and zeaxanthin were associated with a reduced risk of nuclear cataract in elderly subjects," they conclude. "There may be other protective factors of the diet (e.g. synergism of carotenoids with vitamin C or other antioxidants) that may partly explain the observed results."

Did you know these added benefits of leafy greens in your diet?



How to Avoid Macular Degeneration

by Health News

Improve Your Eyesight Naturally with SupplementsMacular degeneration is a condition of the eye in which the cells in the macula slowly deteriorate and affect healthy vision. The macula is a small area located near the center of the retina. As vision is the sharpest in the macula, deterioration affects central vision, which impacts the ability to read and write, drive, and distinguish faces. Macular degeneration does not have an effect on peripheral vision.

There are two forms of macular degeneration: dry and wet, with 90 percent of people having the dry form.   With this version, small, yellow spots (or drusens) form underneath the macular. These are believed to be a byproduct of a lack of antioxidants which control impurities in those with healthy vision. The drusens cause progressive breakdown of the cells in the macular which result in distorted vision. Dry macular degeneration can lead to the much more serious wet form. With this form, atypical blood vessels appear and begin to grow toward the macular, causing swift and severe loss of vision.

It is believed that macular degeneration stems from oxidation caused by free radicals, which are a product of metabolism and are formed when ultraviolet and blue sunlight rays pass through the crystalline lens of the eye. Macular degeneration has also been linked to heredity, poor digestion and nutritional deficiency. Those afflicted with macular degeneration are often lacking in nutrients that are essential to eye health.  Certain nutritional supplements for vision have been shown to prevent or help stop the progression of macular degeneration.

According to a study published in the 2001 Archives of Ophthalmology, antioxidants and zinc are supplements for vision that appear to be an effective treatment for macular degeneration. It was shown that high levels of these supplements can significantly reduce the risk of advanced macular degeneration and resulting loss of vision. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that treatment with high doses of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD by 25 percent in those within a high-risk group. People within this group have intermediate AMD in one or both eyes or have advanced AMD in one eye. Subjects with early AMD or no AMD did not significantly benefit from the antioxidant and zinc treatment.

The study shows that nutrition plays an essential role in helping to maintain healthy vision in people with a high risk of developing advanced AMD. Other important supplements for vision and possible prevention of macular degeneration are vitamin B-complex, vitamin D, lutein, taurine, zeaxanthin, omega 3 fish oil, selenium, and plant extracts like gingko biloba and bilberry.