Simple Lifestyle Changes May Help Reduce the Risk of Cataracts in Men

Andrew Swan, M.D.

Cataracts are a progressive disease that often develop slowly over time, not even disturbing eyesight at the onset. As normal eye changes occur through the aging process however, cataracts become more debilitating and eventually require treatment in the form of surgery. This is true for both men and women, and today I’d like to share specific lifestyle changes men can implement that may help reduce their risk of cataracts.

Introduce a Multivitamin

A study shared by the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) cites that long-term daily multivitamin supplement use may lower cataract risk in men. A randomized, double-blind study from 1997 to 2011 was conducted with approximately 15,000 male physicians, age 50 and older. In the study, half of the men took a common daily multivitamin (as well as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta carotene supplements) and the other half took a placebo. Researchers followed the participants to see how many in each group developed certain eye diseases, including cataracts.

Results indicated that in the placebo group 945 cases of cataracts developed, while only 872 cases developed in the multivitamin group. This represents a 9 percent decrease in risk. The risk for nuclear cataracts – the most common type of cataract associated with aging – was even lower at 13 percent. Given that approximately 10 million adults in the United States have impaired vision due to cataracts, even a small reduction in risk of cataracts could have potential to improve public health outcomes.

Focus on Foods High in Vitamin C

Another study, focused on the impact of diet and nutrition on cataracts, revealed that eating foods high in Vitamin C can reduce the risk of cataracts progression by up to a third. This research, which spanned a decade and specifically examined females, is the first to show that diet and lifestyle may play a greater role than genetics in cataracts development and severity. During the initial baseline measurement of the study, it was determined that diets rich in Vitamin C are associated with a 20 percent risk reduction for cataracts. After 10 years of the study progressing, it was determined that consuming more Vitamin C-rich foods reduced the risk of cataract progression by up to 33 percent.

What foods should you consider when introducing more Vitamin C into your diet? Here are a few suggestions:

  • Citrus Fruits – oranges, tangerines, grapefruits, lemons
  • Peaches
  • Red Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries

We recommend incorporating these and other Vitamin C-rich foods into your diet and overall lifestyle, to help protect against the progression of cataracts. Even if you aren’t a fan of these foods on their own, you can consider adding them into meals or recipes to “hide” them while still reaping the nutritional benefits.

Enjoy a Glass of Wine – In Moderation

According to a recent study published in Ophthalmology, people who drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol were less likely to need cataract surgery. With 490,000 participants included, results indicated that low to moderate wine drinkers (in particular) were the least likely to develop cataracts compared with nondrinkers and drinkers of other types of alcohol.

What is meant by moderation? Researchers were very clear in their findings that moderation is a key takeaway from the study. They actually found that people who drank more than the suggested amount on a daily basis had a 6 percent higher risk of needing cataract surgery versus people who drank low to moderate amounts of alcohol. Moderate drinking is defined as approximately 6.5 glasses of wine per week.

The reason wine specifically is cited as contributing to lowering the risk of cataract surgery is that red wine includes antioxidants that may prevent cataract development. A quote from a researcher on AAO says, “The fact that our findings were particularly evident in wine drinkers may suggest a protective role of polyphenol antioxidants, which are especially abundant in red wine.” Again, the study is not advocating for excessive drinking or drastic lifestyle changes, but rather sheds light on the fact that moderate consumption of red wine could reduce the need for cataract surgery.

As we continue to recognize men’s health month in June, we encourage men to take this opportunity to also schedule a comprehensive eye exam with me or any of my ReFocus colleagues. Our team is here to help and support you, and provide tangible lifestyle tips that you can begin implementing today to reduce your risk of cataracts.

Dr. Swan is a board-certified ophthalmologist specializing in cataract and lens implant surgery as well as comprehensive eye care. He is also a clinical instructor for the Yale University School of Medicine in the Department of Ophthalmology. Dr. Swan has earned multiple awards, including one for his dedication and compassion in patient care.