October is Let’s Talk Month. It’s a time for parents to talk to their children about important issues that get bypassed in the daily hustle and bustle of life. How many days do we limit conversation to the minimum and barely scratch the surface of subjects that are really meaningful? Instead of the usual, “What did you do today?”, consider talking to your children about topics that affect their wellness such as vision health and eye diseases like cataracts. It is true that degenerative eye diseases do not appear until later in life, but choices that your children make today will affect their susceptibility to eye disease.
How do choices today affect vision tomorrow? Take cataracts, for example. Cataracts form when protein in the lens of the eye clumps up and clouds your sight. UV rays can speed up the degenerative process of the lens breaking down. Being out in the sun without sunscreen and eye protection can initiate the formation of cataracts. You can encourage your children to always wear protective sunglasses and a hat when they go out in the sun can keep out UV rays. Let your children know that, just like any disease, cataracts begin small and may go undetected for some time. A daily choice to wear sunglasses and a hat outside is a way that they can prevent cataracts from impairing their vision someday.
Free radicals can also be a culprit in cataract formation. Eating fresh fruits and vegetables with antioxidants can neutralize free radicals and prevent damage to the lens. Remind your kids to make positive food choices every day. Instead of choosing a cookie or chips, they can select sliced carrots, an apple, cucumbers, grapes or mangoes. Fill your refrigerator with colorful varieties of fruits and vegetables and tell your children that they are making a healthy choice for their eyes, heart and their weight when they choose a fresh fruit or vegetable instead of junk food.
Although cataracts are one of the most predominant eye conditions, there are also other eye disorders that are prevalent in the United States. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, and vision loss commonly occurs before any pain or other symptoms are noticed. Macular degeneration is another cause of vision loss and affects about 5 percent of Americans over the age of 65. This degenerative disease destroys central vision and impairs the ability to do activities such as driving a car and reading. Making good food choices also affects the onset of these eye diseases. Encourage your children to eat spinach, walnuts, berries, broccoli, orange bell peppers and soy products to strengthen vision and prevent degenerative eye disease.
You are the most powerful influence in your child’s life, although at times you may not feel it. It is our job as parents to have intentional conversations with our children. Even if they do not admit it immediately, they will probably thank you someday for all the lessons you taught them, and you can hear those three beautiful words: “You were right”!