Eye and Vision Health
Can you imagine life without vision? This is what millions of Canadians are at risk for developing as our population ages more rapidly than ever before. There is already an overburden on our healthcare system for vision care and this burden is expected to far exceed the services currently available as our baby boomers reach between the ages of 50 and 70 years old. Although age has a predictive value when it comes to loss of vision, it may be the lack of antioxidant protection associated with ageing that produces the greatest risk to eye health. After-all, the most common causes of all major degenerative eye conditions are associated with the oxidative damage from free radicals and are all considered to be preventable, if not reversible when treated early enough.
The eyes are the most complex of the sensory organs, processing millions of signals every waking minute. This delicate network of specialized cells, neurons and blood vessels are highly susceptible to the damage of free radicals. Free radicals are generated every second of every day through the production of tiny unpaired electrons. It is the over production of these damaging biochemicals that causes oxidative tissue damage and the destruction of the cells in the eye. According to the Australian government’s Department of Health and Ageing, some of the main causes of visual impairment come from preventable exposures to free radical generating substances. Cigarette smoke, excessive alcohol consumption, ultraviolet light exposure, medication side effects and a poor diet, have all been associated with progressive loss of vision and can all lead to oxidative damage. This means that essentially, an unrefined whole food diet, a healthy lifestyle and wearing sunglasses can dramatically reduce the risk of damage to the eyes.
Cataract is the most common of the degenerative eye conditions, presently affecting 2.5 million Canadians and responsible for 60% of vision loss in people over 60 years of age. Cataract is caused by progressive oxidative damage to the proteins in the lens of the eye leading to a reduction in the passage of light to the retina. Macular degeneration affects nearly 1 million people and is a leading cause of loss of vision in people over 50 years of age. This condition is caused by damage to the photoreceptors of the eye do to oxidative changes in the blood vessels of the retina. Diabetic retinopathy is a condition caused by sugar induced blood vessel damage in the retina of the eye and subsequent visual impairment. This consequence of diabetes affects approximately five hundred thousand Canadians. Glaucoma, or optic nerve damage, is again strongly associated with changes in blood flow to the eye and an elevation of inner eye pressure. Glaucoma affects approximately one quarter of a million people in Canada.
Overburden of oxidative stress is the main cause of the major forms of vision loss in the human eye. The main causes of progressive vision loss are completely preventable with the appropriate understanding and intervention. Antioxidants are good place to start looking for a natural treatment of the major eye conditions, but once again a healthy lifestyle and unrefined diet are the key to there prevention.