Sunday, March 25, 2012

Preventing Cataracts Naturally

Itttt was pretty much fullblown summer here in Toronto. We enjoyed a week in the high 20's. Which means I got to rock my fave pair of shades - and frankly, the only pair I've ever had that looks good on me. My friend Neesa asked to see them, looked at them for 10 seconds, and handed them back while saying "these aren't UV protected - you'd be better off not wearing anything at all!"
I immediately went into denial "say whhhhaaaaat???"
Neesa: Yea, see how they have no UV number on the inside? That means they have no protection.
Then I went straight to bargaining "but they're shaded, so doesn't that still block stuff?"
Neesa, with an arrow straight through my heart: No. In fact, it makes them worse for your eyes. the shading causes your eyes to open up more, letting in more light.
I was angry for having been misled in the past to think a shade is a shade. Angry that I finally found a rocking pair of shades that looked hot on me, and now I had to give them up. Then I just became depressed...I don't want cataracts! My vision is already suspect, especially at night - thanks to a medication I was on when younger. But I also have very light coloured eyes and can't see ANYTHING when the sun is even a little of the way out.

The truth is, with our current ozone layer situation, cataracts are quite a common occurence. In 2008, the National Eye Institute and Prevent Blindness America estimated that in the US, one in six over the age of 40 is affected by cataracts. And those numbers skyrocket with age. By 80, more than half of Americans have cataracts or have had a surgery to remove cataracts. That being said, cataracts, even with a giant hole in our ozone layer, are not inevitable. There are some cultures that have almost no incidence of cataracts, even in people over the age of 90! I'll have what they're having please...

Let's look at some of the things you can do that studies have shown to help reduce the risk of cataract development:

  1. Get more Vitamin C. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, which can help protect against free radicals from smoking, alcohol use, sun exposure and other environmental oxidative damage. Research studies show a significant inverse relationship between vitamin C intake and cataract development and progression. 
  2.  Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are an excellent source of antioxidants, which are shown to protect against free radicals and to be protective against the formation of cataracts. Fruits and vegetables are also an excellent source of fibre, which is key in blood sugar stabilization (see #4).
  3. Decrease meat consumption, focusing more on whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, and vegetables. Studies have shown a connection between meat consumption and cataract formation, and that a vegetarian or vegan diet is protective against cataracts.  
  4. Stabilize blood sugar. Diabetes increases the risk of cataract and cataract progression. Although anyone can get cataracts, people with diabetes get these eye problems at an earlier age than most and the condition progresses more rapidly than in people without diabetes. For patients with diabetes and for those who are at risk of developing diabetes, blood sugar stabilization is key.
  5. Wear UVA/UVB protective sunglasses and wide-brimmed hats. Sun exposure is a key link in the development and progression of cataracts. It’s important to avoid the harmful UVA/UVB rays of the sun when possible and protect against them when avoidance is not possible.
Want a great anti-cataract breakfast idea? Check out my easy and delicious steel-cut oat recipe! The oats are a great source of fibre, especially beta-glucan, making them a great choice to fill you up while stabilizing your blood sugar. Beta-glucan has been shown to lower blood glucose and insulin levels in those with and without type 2 diabetes. Cinnamon is a rich source of chromium, which further helps to stabilize blood sugar. Flaxseed are both sources of omega 3 EFAs, which have been linked to a reduction in cataract development. Add some blueberries, a rich source of antioxidants, which are protective against free radicals that can contribute to cataracts. 

Let's eat yummy food, find good quality shades and be cataract-free together!!!



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