September is Healthy Aging Month. It’s a month dedicated to being your best self no matter your age, a yearly reminder to do the little things as you move through the years to keep a spring in your step and a smile on your face. It doesn’t matter how many years you have under your belt, there are always steps you can take to keep yourself healthy, things like regular exercise, healthy eating, and maintaining relationships with friends, family and neighbors. These building blocks support lifelong health, and that’s what Healthy Aging Month is all about.
But there is always more you can do, like routine health screenings and dental exams. Here at Rides in Sight, when Healthy Aging Month comes around we think about eye exams.
Eye health is a key part of healthy aging. So much of what we do in life, so many of the things that make life rewarding — art, exercise, movies, driving, working, cooking, eating — require healthy eyes. But by the time we reach age 50 the risks of eye disease and other vision impairment spikes. According to the National Institute of Health’s National Eye Institute, vision loss is not a normal part of aging. Changes in vision occur, but vision loss and blindness are not inevitable.
Older adults, however, carry increased risk for diseases and conditions like age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, dry eye, and low vision. Many of these offer no early symptoms, but eye exams can detect them early. That’s what makes eye exams so important. They can keep you seeing as you age, catch diseases that might in time wreak havoc on normal vision.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends most adults get their first baseline eye examination at 40. Early screening allows early detection. Evidence of eye disease or vision changes caught early can often be treated, and early treatment can have the most impact on preserving vision. And people who already have an eye disease, or risk factors for developing one such as diabetes, high blood pressure or a family history of eye disease, should see an ophthalmologist even before 40.
That initial vision screening will give your eye doctor the information to tell you how often you should undergo an eye exam as you age. If you are 65 or older, make sure you have your eyes checked every year or two for signs of age-related eye diseases such as cataracts, age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma.
More than 40 million Americans are currently age 65 or older. By 2050 that number is expected to more than double. In that same timeframe, the number of Americans with age-related eye diseases is expected to double, and the number of people living with low vision is projected to triple. Vision screening leads to early detection, and early detection leads to treatment. Treatment can lead to saving sight. Sight helps maintain a healthy, active, fulfilling life. Healthy Aging Month is all about all of those.