Nourish your eyes for optimal health

When was the last time you had a full eye exam?

About 16 million people in the U.S. age 45 and older report some vision loss.

Regular vision checkups are very important. The most debilitating eye diseases are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment and refractive errors. The greatest risk factor for most eye diseases, especially AMD (age-related macular degeneration), is age.

Several of us may be more likely to have AMD later in life because our relatives have or had AMD. However, all of us should consider preventing AMD through a variety of methods. The first is regular eye exams. The dilated-pupil exam allows your eye doctor to have a comprehensive look at the macula.

Good nutrition also is vital, and fruits, vegetables and eggs are particularly important for eye health. Taking an eye supplement such as lutein and zeaxanthin is not a replacement for an inadequate diet. Substances in green, leafy vegetables may be effective in preventing AMD, but scientists are not sure if the reason is lutein, zeaxanthin or an unidentified substance in plant-based food.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your eye health, the North Dakota State University Extension Service can help. The Extension office in Ward County is holding a class at 10 a.m. on Wednesday in the Ex-servicemen’s Room of the Ward County Courthouse, 315-3rd St. SE, Minot.

This class is part of NDSU Extension’s Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program. The program is designed to provide rural North Dakotans age 50 and older with information and strategies to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. However, any adult can benefit from the information.

Nourishing Boomers and Beyond offers classes on a different topic each month. Participants will be able to take part in hands-on activities and discussions, and they’ll receive material such as handouts and healthful recipes to take home.

Visit the program’s website at ( if you aren’t able to attend a class or want more information on the topic covered in a session. Anyone can sign up for the free monthly newsletter by visiting the website or contacting your local Extension office. Participating county Extension offices will have Facebook pages to interact with their clients, and we’re now on Pinterest at “nourishboomers.”

Also visit ( to see if a Nourishing Boomers and Beyond class is being held near you.

Things you’ll learn about in April include how to protect your eyes from environmental stressors and the best foods for eye health. You’ll also be involved in interactive activities with vision simulators.

(Ellen M. Bjelland is a family and consumer science agent with the Ward County office of the North?Dakota State University Extension Service.)