Scientists have long suspected that having diabetes puts you at a higher risk for cataracts. Studies have hinted at the connection for years. But now new research out of Britain has confirmed it.
Being diabetic DOUBLES your risk for this vision clouding condition.
When you have a cataract, the lens of your eye becomes increasingly opaque over time. Since light can’t pass through the lens properly, you’re left with cloudy vision and unable to see clearly.
Cataracts are the most common cause of vision loss for folks over 40. And they cause vision problems and blindness in over 65 million people all over the world.
As we get older, we’re all at increased risk for developing cataracts. In fact, over half of Americans have the condition by the time they are 80.
But it turns out your risk skyrockets when you have blood sugar issues. And it could even put you at risk much earlier.
Free radical damage can steal your sight
Why it happens is fairly complicated, and liable to make you doze off. But I’ll give you the quick, simplified version.
The lenses of your eyes don’t have their own blood supply. That means they need to get their nutrients and oxygen from the fluid that surrounds them.
If you’re diabetic and don’t have very tight control over your blood sugar this causes the glucose levels in the liquid around your eyes to shoot up too. An enzyme located in the lenses if your eyes then converts that glucose to sorbitol.
And that’s where things can go south quickly.
As excess sorbitol begins to build up it triggers tissue-damaging free radicals. And as those damaged proteins clump together it causes the cloudiness we call cataracts.
“Cataracts proof” your eyes in 3 simple steps
Besides keeping your blood sugar in check, and seeing the eye doctor regularly (a must, especially if you’re diabetic), there are a few things you can do to help slash your risk for cataracts.
And the good news is most of them couldn’t be any simpler.
1. Protect your peepers from the sun:
Now you know that we’re BIG fans of sunshine around here. Getting enough sun, and the vitamin D that it triggers, is critical for good health. And it becomes more important with each passing year.
So we don’t want you avoiding the sun.
But you should take some steps to protect your eyes from UV rays. Scientists theorize excess UV rays can trigger a similar process to oxidative stress in your eyes. This process, called glycation, destroys the proteins in your eyes when then clump causing cataracts.
The solution is simple. Purchase sunglasses with UV protection and wear them whenever you are outside. And if you’re going to be out for more than 20 minutes, you might want to add a wide brimmed hat to your outfit too.
2. Build a barrier of beneficial nutrients:
You may also be able to reduce your cataract risk by building a protective barrier with eye-friendly vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Two we’ve told you about before, but are worth mentioning again are the powerful antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients are abundant in dark leafy greens and bright yellow veggies. And scientists say they’re associated with a lower risk of cataracts.
In a large study of over 35,500 volunteers, researchers found that women who had the most lutein and zeaxanthin in their diets had an 18 percent lower risk for developing vision-robbing cataracts than their peers who ate the least of these nutrients.
Good sources of this dynamic duo include kale, spinach, paprika, red pepper, basil, summer squash, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and eggs
In that same study—published in the journal Archives of Ophthalmology—women who had the most vitamin E in their diets had a 14 percent lower risk of developing cataracts as well. You can get more vitamin E in your diet by eating almonds, spinach, sweet potatoes and sunflower seeds.
According to scientists, omega-3 fatty acids may also help shield your peepers from cataracts. Researchers crunched the dietary data from over 71,000 women in the Nurses’ Health Study. They found the volunteers who had eaten the most omega-3-rich foods (such as salmon, flaxseeds and sardines) had a 12 percent lower risk of having their vision cloud over than women who ate the least.
And a British study on over 1,000 pairs of 60-year old twins found that the women who ate the most vitamin-C rich foods had a one-third lower risk of developing cataracts over 10 years. You already know citrus fruits contain vitamin C, but kiwi, guava, red pepper, black currants, green peppers and strawberries all contain more of this potent antioxidant.
3. Shun smoking:
If you aren’t a smoker, don’t ever start. And if you already have a habit, there’s no time like today to commit to quit.
You don’t need me to tell you that smoking is bad for your health. But it turns out it could be harming your eyes specifically.
Smoking produces bunches of cell-damaging free radicals, which can harm your eyesight. In fact, researchers say a smoking habit DOUBLES your risk of developing cataracts.
And the heavier a smoker you are, the higher your cataract risk climbs.
In one study researchers found folks who smoked over 15 cigarettes a day had a 42 percent higher risk of developing cataracts than their peers who never picked up the habit. But kicking the habit sliced that risk in half after 20 years.
Having diabetes may double your risk of cataracts, but taking these three steps simple steps could help slice away at that risk. Don’t let diabetes cloud your vision. “Cataracts proof,” your eyes instead.
She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on HealthierTalk.com. Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.
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