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HYPERTENSION — can your blood pressure affect your eyes?

HYPERTENSION

High blood pressure can quietly damage your body for years before symptoms develop. Healthy arteries are flexible, strong, and elastic. Their inner lining is smooth, so that blood flows easily.

The tiny blood vessels in your eyes are like long skinny balloons: they are tough to blow up. But if you keep blowing these balloons up and letting the air out again repeatedly, the balloons change. They become wrinkled, thin, and bulbous in parts. They are no longer smooth. High blood pressure changes your vessels like this, making beautiful smooth vessels into misshapen tubes with poor circulation.

In an eye exam, the super fine vessels of the retina can be evaluated when the doctor looks into the eye. This is an easy way to determine if the blood vessels in the body are healthy before any of the bad stuff happens.

In addition to visual problems, high blood pressure can cause heart failure, stroke, kidney failure, blindness, bone loss, sexual dysfunction, depression, and dementia.

How can you keep your blood pressure lower?

  • Be physically active- Get your heart rate up for at least 30 mins 3-4 times a week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight- This will come naturally, if you exercise and eat right.
  • Limit alcohol intake- more than 1-3 drinks at one time increases blood pressure. If alcohol is consumed constantly, hypertension becomes chronic.
  • Quit smoking- the thrill of smoking is the increase heart rate and release of adrenalin into the blood. Addictive smoking causes hypertension and the chemicals in cigarettes can damage the lining of the blood vessels.
  • Like mom says: get plenty of sleep and drink plenty of water.

By Sumati Deutscher, O.D.

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GECKOS LICK BUT WE DON’T — Dry Eye

It is surprising to think that watery eyes are sign of dry eyes but they are! Ever see a gecko lick its eyes? Well, those animals don’t have eyelids so they have to keep the skin of the eyes moist by licking them. If they don’t lick then they can’t see, because the skin of the eye would become like a dried-up and dirty window.

In the human eye there are two sources of tears.  One source is from the lacrimal glands which sit just above the eyeball, ready to spill tears at the slightest irritation or strong emotion. The other source is the eyelids which produce a constant protective layer of tear film over the surface of the eyeball every time we blink. So unlike the gecko, we do not have to lick our eyes constantly to keep them moist! Just blinking with our eyelids keeps them comfortable.

When blinking goes wrong eyes can get dry, and the lacrimal glands are activated to help out.  This gland can get a little too spunky and produce too much tearing! Which is nice, but not helpful, and it can be a little annoying.

Dry eyes are a common problem resulting in inefficient and poor vision. But you don’t have to live with it. Dry eyes can be treated with simple use of lubricating eye drops, or a variety of more advanced therapies.

By Sumati Deutscher, O.D.

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EGGS FLORENTINE ANYONE? — the importance of Lutein and Zeaxanthin

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow and red pigments found in yummy vegetables that we eat. Lutein is used in the retina to protect the eye tissue from sun damage. Think of it as an internal layer of sunscreen to protect the center of the vision in the human eye from degenerative aging due to sun exposure.

The molecules of lutein and zeaxanthin are very similar and interchangeable. In scientific research there is strong evidence which shows that a good amount of these pigments in your diet can prevent macular degeneration.

In a study published in the journal Optometry, participants with early macular degeneration improved their night driving and read an average of 1.5 lines lower on the eye chart by taking 8 mg per day of dietary zeaxanthin for one year.

Dietary Sources of lutein and zeaxanthin

Although lutein and zeaxanthin can be purchased as vitamin supplements, the best way to get enough of them is through eating. Eggs florentine anyone? Cooked spinach and chicken egg yolks are two of the best ways of getting lutein and zeaxanthin. Also try kale, broccoli, peas, cantaloupe, corn, carrots, orange/yellow peppers, and egg noodles.

 

By Sumati Deutscher, O.D.