Vision is arguably one of our most valuable senses and our eyes contain some of the hardest working muscles in the human body. For example, an hour of reading a book takes nearly 10,000 coordinated movements of the external muscles of the eye. When our head is in motion, our eyes are constantly readjusting themselves to retain the proper focus necessary for accurate vision.

When it comes to this important bodily function, minorities seem to have less problems with their eyesight in some categories when compared to their Caucasian counterparts. The American Academy of Ophthalmology gives an overview of the causes of visual impairment and legal blindness in the United States according to demographics of Caucasians (or non-Hispanic whites), African Americans, and Hispanics:

CAUSES OF LEGAL BLINDNESS

Non-Hispanic Whites

Age-related macular degeneration (46.6%)
Others (27.6%)
Cataract (10.3%)
Diabetic retinopathy (6.9%)
Glaucoma (5.2%)

African Americans

Others (43.8%)
Cataract (25%)
Glaucoma (18.8%)
Diabetic retinopathy (8.3%)
Age-related macular degeneration (4.2%)

Hispanics

Others (39.5%)
Age-related macular degeneration (23.7%)
Diabetic retinopathy (18.4%)
Glaucoma (10.5%)
Cataract (7.9%)

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the leading causes of blindness and low vision in the United States are primarily age-related eye diseases, such as macular degeneration, followed by cataract, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma. Other vision problems are most frequently associated with refractive errors: myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), astigmatism (distorted vision at all distances), and presbyopia (loss of the ability to focus up close), which usually occurs between the ages of 40 to 50 years old.

Disorders such as amblyopia (sometimes referred to as “lazy eye” and most commonly seen in children) and strabismus (an imbalance in the positioning of the two eyes), which can lead to eyes that cross (esotropia) or turn out (exotropia). All of these can lead to visual impairment, which breaks down into these categories for different demographic groups:

CAUSES OF VISUAL IMPAIRMENT

Non-Hispanic Whites

Cataract (42.2%)
Age-related macular degeneration (28.1%)
Others (22.7%)
Diabetic retinopathy (4.7%)
Glaucoma (2.3%)

African Americans

Cataract (41.7%)
Others (27.0%)
Diabetic retinopathy (12.2%)
Glaucoma (11.3%)
Age-related macular degeneration (7.8%)

Hispanics

Cataract (48.0%)
Others (16.2%)
Diabetic retinopathy (15.0%)
Age-related macular degeneration (14.5%)
Glaucoma (6.4%)

vision health

PREVENTION

Although nothing can stop the hands of time for age-related conditions that affect our valuable vision, certain lifestyle choices can influence the health and aging of our eyes. Number one, don’t smoke tobacco, period, followed by maintaining a good diet, regular exercise, and monitoring and controlling blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Some of these practices can also help to prevent the onset of diabetes, which contributes to diabetic retinopathy.

Some studies suggest eating more fish can greatly reduce your risk of contracting age-related macular degeneration. Research reveals that those who consumed higher amounts of fish, more than two servings per week, were 40% less likely to contract macular degeneration compared to those who ate less than one serving per week.

For all vision problems, another way to protect your vision is to wear good, high-quality sunglasses to prevent harmful UV rays from affecting our eyes. Prevention and protection can help you have better eyesight even as we age.

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