Seventy-eight percent of baby boomers rank vision as the most important of the five senses according to Eye on the Boomer, a new survey released by the Ocular Nutrition Society. What’s more, many (55%) baby boomers surveyed worry about vision loss – almost as much as they worry about heart disease (60%) and cancer (65%). Despite this worry, almost half of respondents said they don’t typically have an eye exam at least annually, and even fewer are aware of important nutrients that play a key role in eye health.
The National Eye Institute estimates that over the next 30 years, the number of Americans that experience eye health issues will double because of aging baby boomers. The demand for vision services is expected to flood the health care system by 2015 due to age-related eye disease and the diabetes epidemic.
Sponsored by the Ocular Nutrition Society and Bausch + Lomb, Eye on the Boomer interviewed 1,001 men and women, ages 45 to 65 (the baby boomer generation) to evaluate their eye care habits and gauge their level of understanding on the relationship between proactive eye care and eye health.
The baby boomer generation is characterized by their desire for independence. As this generation ages, many will be affected by some type of eye concern that could impact their daily lives. The ONS wanted to gain an understanding of how active boomers are about maintaining their eye health as they age and what they knew about overall eye health.
If people are at risk for heart disease they typically make lifestyle modifications. This survey found that people are as concerned about their eyes but do not know the simple steps they need to incorporate into their daily lives to take care of them.
Experts recommend that disease prevention, including lifestyle modification, attention to dietary intake and vitamin supplementation, must become a greater focus of primary vision care. Studies indicate that proper nutrition promotes healthy eyes; however, many American diets are found to be deficient of the critical nutrients that help protect eye health.
Many people surveyed were not aware of important nutrients that play a key role in eye health.
- Almost 6 % of respondents were not aware of the role of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Two-thirds of participants (66%) were not aware of the role of lutein.
- Nine of 10 respondents (89%) were not aware of the role of zeaxanthin.
The survey also looked at whether boomers are taking vitamin and nutrient supplements to support the gaps in their diet.
- While more than half of baby boomers surveyed are taking supplements to protect their joints, bones or heart health, only 18% said they take supplements to support their eye health.
- Three-fourths agreed that the need for certain vitamins/nutrients to support eye health increases as one ages, with half also agreeing that taking a focused eye vitamin or supplement can help protect eye health.
- Of those who do not take supplements, 31% said it was because they believe they receive enough nutrients from food.
As we grow older, the need for certain vitamins and nutrients to support the eye increases – the survey revealed low awareness of these essential nutrients. Over the past few decades there has been a national focus on better nutrition and healthy living. This survey highlights the need for greater education on the lifestyle modifications that baby boomers should be incorporating into their daily lives, including proper nutrition, to safeguard eye health as they age.
- Disclosure: Dr. Anshel is president of the Ocular Nutrition Society and a consultant to Bausch + Lomb.
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