My father recently visited the ophthalmologist, where he received a clean bill of visual health. He has no cataracts, glaucoma or eye problems to speak of. Just a few months short of his 90th birthday, he still only requires reading glasses.
Obviously, good vision is its own reward. But in a larger sense, does a person’s ocular health also tell us anything about our overall health?
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
Just because you have healthy eyes doesn’t mean you’re a healthy person. But it seems to be a pretty good indicator.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people with vision problems are more likely to have a raft of other health problems: diabetes, heart problems, hypertension, strokes, poor hearing and back pain. Not surprisingly, they’re also at a higher risk for depression and falls.
Among Americans 65 and over, about 1 in 5 five without vision problems reported they were in fair to poor overall health. For those with vision problems, the number who said they were in fair to poor health was twice as high.
In addition to ocular issues, regular visual exams can detect other health problems. The eye is the only place in the body where a doctor can get an unobstructed view of our blood vessels, nerves and tissue without surgery. So, an exam can potentially reveal a variety of conditions, from potential strokes to elevated blood pressure and autoimmune diseases.
People with vision impairments face a variety of challenges each day. If you can’t see properly, it can interfere with grocery shopping and meal preparation, which can then affect healthy eating choices. Similarly, vision loss also can impact balance, mobility and orientation — and, as a result, limit physical activity and routine exercise.
It follows that people with vision loss may be at greater risk for obesity and the secondary health problems that flow from it. Indeed, the National Institutes of Health is funding new research to study this very question.
When it comes to vision, we should all be as lucky as your father. Regardless, we should all follow his lead and visit an eye doctor regularly.