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Senior Wellness: The Effects Of The Aging Eye On Health

March 6, 2012

Uncovering the many effects that aging vision can have on our wellness.

It is no secret that, as we get older, many of us will begin to develop certain types of health conditions that commonly occur throughout the aging process. Whether these are minor conditions, such as slower reaction time or decreased mobility, or they involve significant changes to our day-to-day health and wellness, such as memory loss or insomnia, it can be a scary prospect for anyone who is entering into their senior years and isn’t quite sure what to expect.

In order to make the aging process just a little bit easier, as well as to help uncover the cause behind many of these common health conditions, many scientists have spent decades investigating various age-related issues that may trigger some of these common problems, including obesity, heart disease, high cholesterol and an inactive lifestyle.

However, while each of these different suspects often crops up as we get older, and may attribute to a number of serious health conditions, there is one previously unrecognized culprit that may have more influence over difficult health problems that occur with age than we originally thought―the aging of our eyes and our vision.

Our bones and our muscles are not the only things that tend to age and weaken as we enter our senior years. Our eyes often experience several effects that occur with age, including the gradual yellowing of the lens and the narrowing of the pupil. While this natural change may or may not directly affect your eyesight, it can disturb the body’s circadian rhythm, contributing to a number of different health problems.

To understand exactly how this relates back to our aging eyes, it is first important to understand our body’s internal clock and the process that that rallies our body in the morning and slows it down at night, allowing us to rest and repair.

Our body’s circadian rhythms act as our own personal internal biological clock. It is a complex and finely tuned system of cyclical hormonal and physiological processes that help us to live in rhythm with the 24-hour day:  waking up in the morning and remaining alert throughout the day, then sleeping and rejuvenating at night. A key component of a functioning circadian system is the timed release of the “sleep hormone” melatonin.

The rise and fall of melatonin that are bodies produce is driven primarily by our eyes exposure to light, which is why our vision plays such a critical role in governing our circadian clocks. Melatonin is also thought to have many health-promoting functions, such as a reduced incidence of cancer, diabetes and heart disease.

However, recently scientists have discovered that, as our eyes start to age, our pupils become smaller and our eyes become less adept at absorbing light. In fact, by age 45, the photoreceptors of the average adult receive just 50% of the light that is needed to fully stimulate the circadian system. By age 55, it dips down to 37%, and by age 75, it is at a mere 17%.

Luckily, Swedish researchers recently discovered that patients who had cataract surgery to remove their clouded lenses had a significantly reduced risk of insomnia and daytime sleepiness, both common side effects of lack of melatonin. They also found that most patents had an improved reaction time following their cataract surgery. These scientists believe that, soon enough, it will be shown that cataract surgery results in higher levels of melatonin, meaning that people will be less likely to have health problems such as cancer and heart disease as their eyes begin to age.

To learn more about the many different benefits that come with cataract surgery, as well as whether or not you may be a candidate for this life changing procedure, be sure to fill out our free vision consultation today. We here at OCLI are dedicated to improving the health and wellness of your senior years, starting with clear vision.


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