By Nurse Mark
HealthBeat News readers may not know that I will be turning 60 this year, so there it is – my age, now known to all. And I feel that I’m in pretty good shape for being almost 60; I run every morning, I do daily body-weight exercise, I eat well, I sleep well, I take my vitamins faithfully, I’m a normal weight and I feel good.
Like many people my age however I like to joke that “if I’d known I would live this long I would have taken better care of myself!”
When we are in our 20’s and 30’s we are immortal, invincible. But as we move into our 40’s and 50’s and begin to notice little things we wish we had been more careful, more attentive.
As I moved through my 40’s I began to notice that my arms seemed to be becoming shorter – I was having to hold printed materials further from my eyes in order to focus and read. As I approached my 50’s a set of “cheaters” – non-prescription reading glasses – became my constant companion.
When I was in my 20’s and 30’s I actually preferred driving at night when there was less traffic on the roads – but as I moved into my 40’s I found that it seemed like more people had annoying, glaringly maladjusted headlights, and as I entered my 50’s I found myself going out of my way to avoid night driving – the glare from oncoming headlights seemed blinding and I felt I was not as safe as I wanted to be because of that.
In my mid-50’s I earned my Private Pilot certificate, which meant learning to fly at night. I found that flying in darkness is a delightful experience. But while takeoffs are optional, landings are mandatory and the glare from the runway edge lights and other airport lighting made night landings a nerve-wracking experience – I found myself avoiding night flight.
As I entered my 50’s I also noticed that while my distance vision was still quite good, things sometimes looked a little “flat” in some light, and objects were becoming harder to pick out from backgrounds. Colors weren’t quite as “crisp” as I seemed to remember…
So, around my 59th birthday last year Dr. Myatt and I were attending lectures at a medical conference in Las Vegas. One of those lectures explained the results of the NIH-sponsored AREDS2 study and the actions and effects of the supplements lutein and zeaxanthin. After sitting through what felt like hours of mind-numbing statistics and science the speaker began to get to the meat of the lecture and I started to think that perhaps there was something in it for me – and that since we carry a very high quality lutein supplement perhaps I would give the stuff a try. And so, when we got home from the conference I began to take a lutein supplement faithfully every day – it has been about 90 days now.
Here is what I found: For the first month or so it didn’t seem to be doing a darned thing.
Then about halfway through the second month of using it I was out for my usual morning run – a day like any other. As I neared one particular hilltop that affords a nice view of a local valley something seemed different. I stopped and admired the view. Colors felt brighter; distant homes, vehicles, trees, and other features somehow looked more prominent. Everything just seemed crisper, cleaner, like when the air is especially clear after a rainfall. But this is Arizona – we had not experienced any rain for some time. I drank in the beauty of it and continued my run without much more thought.
A few days later I found myself needing to drive to a meeting at night. I really don’t like to drive at night anymore, but there was no way around it, so off I went. Oddly, though it seemed like there was as much traffic as ever, oncoming headlights weren’t quite as blinding – even the nasty high-intensity blue headlights. Headlights from behind (we have plenty of “jacked-up” trucks and SUV’s in our part of the world) were less annoying too. When I did get an unavoidable flash of headlights in my eyes I seemed to be recovering my vision faster – more like I was able to when I was 20 years younger. My own headlights seemed to be working a bit better too, and I was finding it easier to pick out objects at the edges of their illumination – the car in a dark driveway getting ready to pull out onto the road, the deer feeding in the ditch, the pothole to be avoided. All in all, I found myself enjoying driving at night again – wow!
The next day I thought about my vision, and about the changes I was noticing. It isn’t like by vision is any better by measurable means – I still need my readers for close work, I don’t think my visual acuity has changed or improved – my distance vision seems unchanged (it was pretty good to begin with).
What has changed though is the quality of my vision. Would it make sense if I said it feels “cleaner”? Colors seem less muddy. Contrast seems improved. There seems to be less glare. Perhaps there is a way to measure all this that I’m not aware of, but for now it just seems… better. And that’s enough for me.
But I wasn’t satisfied with that – and so I dug out my notes from that medical conference lecture and reviewed them.
I found that what I was noticing is exactly what the lecturer said that they had been finding in their research.
My notes said that 6 to 9 weeks of continued supplementation was required to achieve any noticeable improvement. Check.
I had noted that lutien forms a protective layer inside the eye that improves night sight and reduces glare effects by blocking blue light. Check.
And that this blue light blocking effect also improves contrast and color rendition in full and in subdued light. Check.
My notes also say that lutein is protective of the eye, functions as an antioxidant, and may prevent development and progression of cataracts and may prevent the progression of Age-Related Macular Degeneration.
My Bottom line?
I believe that using lutein faithfully for the last three months has made a difference to the quality of my vision. Not to my visual acuity: it hasn’t fixed my presbyopia – but has improved a difficult-to-define “quality” of vision.
Let’s just say that I like what (and how) I’m seeing, and you’re not taking my lutein away from me!
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