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Health & Wellness

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How to protect your vision over the long haul

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, eye diseases related to aging are the primary cause of vision impairment in the United States. Many people consider vision loss a natural side effect of aging, but there are ways men and women can protect their vision and reduce their risk of vision loss as they age.

• Quit smoking. According to the National Eye Institute, smoking doubles a person's risk for age-related macular degeneration, or AMD. AMD is a leading cause of vision loss in men and women over the age of 50. It causes damage to the macula, which is the part of the eye needed for sharp, central vision. If the macula is damaged, vision may be blurry, distorted or dark.

• Protect eyes from ultraviolet light. The American Optometric Association notes that UV-A and UV-B radiation can have adverse effects on a person's vision. A short-term effect of excessive exposure to UV radiation is photokeratitis, a painful condition that can lead to red eyes, extreme sensitivity to light and excessive tearing. Long-term effects of such exposure include a higher risk of developing cataracts and damage to the retina, which is the part of the eye used for seeing. When spending time outdoors, always wear sunglasses that provide protection against UV-A and UV-B rays.

• Maintain a healthy blood pressure. High blood pressure, often referred to as HBP or hypertension, can contribute to vision loss as a person ages. The American Heart Association notes that HBP can strain blood vessels in the eyes, causing them to narrow or bleed. HBP also can cause the optic nerve to swell, compromising a person's vision as a result. Eye damage that results from HBP is cumulative, which means the longer it goes untreated, the more likely the damage to the eye will be permanent. Men and women can maintain a healthy blood pressure by eating right, exercising regularly and sustaining a healthy weight.

• Take breaks from work. Computer vision syndrome, or CVS, is a legitimate condition that can develop when a person spends ample time staring at a computer screen. Adults and kids alike are susceptible to CVS, which can cause symptoms such as blurred vision, double vision, eye irritation, and headaches. One way to reduce risk of developing CVS is to take frequent breaks from staring at the screen. A handful of 20-second breaks over the course of an hour can help prevent CVS. In addition, change lighting in the room where you work so you can reduce glare on the computer screen.