Monthly Archives: August 2015

Vision & Vitamins: Eat Your Colors!

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It turns out getting vitamins in your diet that are good for your eyes is a simple as looking for color.  Of course the old favorite is the bright orange carrot.  Beta-carotene which is responsible for the orange color in carrots, squash, and pumpkins that the body converts to vitamin A which is important to retinal function and good vision.  Leafy greens – spinach, kale, lettuce – contain zeaxanthin which are antioxidants that may reduce development of macular degeneration and cataracts.  Blue and red berries like blueberries, bilberries, strawberries, and raspberries have vitamin C and other compounds like anthocyanin that promote retinal health and healthy blood vessels.  The eye has one of the highest blood flow of all the body organs – so keeping your cardiovascular system healthy is a key to good vision.  Don’t forget about the importance of brown (nuts).  Sunflower seeds, almonds and other nuts are full of vitamin E which may also be helpful in preventing retinal problems like macular degeneration.  Finally think about eating colorful fish like salmon and the bright yellow of egg yolks when looking for eye healthy foods.

So next time you are shopping at your local grocery store or farmers’ market keep an eye out for colorful foods that will not only be pleasing to look at but also good for your eyes.

If you have questions about laser vision correction or wish to book a complimentary evaluation with Dr. Anderson Penno, contact Western Laser Eye Associates.


Vision & Vitamins: What is bilberry?

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Bilberry is a shrub that produces berries that resemble blueberries.  It is found in Northern and Central Europe.  In Scandanavia wild bilberries are the most common.  Various medicinal effects have been attributed to this natural source of antioxidants.  The compounds that are responsible for the dark color are anthocyanins.  This berry has been reported to lower blood sugar and lipids, and to fight inflammation.  Bilberry has been classified as safe when consumed appropriately by the American Herbal Products Association.

Does Bilberry improve night vision?  According modern folklore the Royal Air Force used Bilberry during the second world war to improve night vision – although the same claim is made for carrots.  There have been some peer reviewed studies (peer reviewed means the studies are analyzed by other scientists prior to being accepted for publication) over the years to suggest that there may be some benefits to Bilberry, but the dose has not been determined and the most of the studies are somewhat small.  So the benefit of bilberry to eye health is not strongly supported by science and future studies will be needed to find out the true benefits.

Is Bilberry better for the eyes than other antioxidants?  There does not seem to be any evidence that Bilberry is better, but since deeply colored fruits and vegetables all contain a variety of beneficial nutrients including antioxidants it makes some sense to include Bilberry along with a variety of other eye healthy foods.  A professor of mine once told me, “Eat a little bit of everything and not too much of any one thing.”  It is uncommon but it is possible to harm your health with supplements.  Consumer reports published an article about twelve supplements you should avoid. It is less likely to harm yourself with real food, but it is wise to be cautious about the amounts of vitamins that are in your diet.  For example, vitamin A is necessary for vision but too much can lead to blindness.  It would be unlikely to ingest too much vitamin A unless you eat polar bear livers, but in general more vitamins are not necessarily better.  The stuctures and biochemistry in the eye (just like the rest of your body) is like a delicate fine tuned watch which require specific amounts of various nutrients for the best function.  Mega doses of vitamins are like trying to fix the delicate watch with a hammer.  Bilberry shows promise as part of well rounded eye healthy diet.

If you have questions about laser vision correction or wish to book a complimentary evaluation with Dr. Anderson Penno, contact Western Laser Eye Associates.

Vision & Vitamins: Can supplements prevent nearsightedness?

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Nearsightedness (also called myopia) affects from 20% to 50% of North Americans and up to >80% of some populations in Asian countries.  The need for nearsighted correction with glasses or contacts can run in families and is more likely to be present if both parents are myopic.  The natural course of nearsightedness is that it can start in childhood or young adulthood and continue to progress up to age 20 or in higher corrections into the 30’s.

There are some conditions that may be associated with nearsightedness so regular eye examinations are recommended even if the prescription has stopped changing.  Nearsighted people and parents of nearsighted children are of course interested in finding ways to slow or prevent the progression of myopia.  There has been conflicting scientific evidence to support the relationship between reading and near work and higher myopia, however there was no proven association between nearsightedness and computer work.  There has also been some evidence to suggest that more time spent in natural light (outdoors) can help to reduce the increase in prescription over time.

There have been a number of studies to try and find a link between nutrition and nearsightedness and to this date there has not been anything proven to prevent natural progression of myopia in children and adults.

It is important for anyone affected by nearsightedness to have regular eye examinations with and optometrist or ophthalmologist even if the prescription isn’t changing.  Sudden shifts in the degree of nearsightedness can indicate conditions like diabetes or cataracts if changes are happening at an older age.

Correcting nearsightedness is usually involves using glasses or contact lenses.  Laser vision correction can be considered after the prescription has stabilized for at least 2 years.

If you have questions about laser vision correction or wish to book a complimentary evaluation with Dr. Anderson Penno, contact Western Laser Eye Associates.

75 Mile Obstacle Course: AKA West Coast Trail 2015 (5 simple steps)

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“I don’t know how they can call this a trail.”  This was the comment from one of my trek-mates in the first leg of the West Coast Trail last week.  We started from the south end and did the first 13 K in 7 hours which is pretty good compared to some – the last 12 K took 3.5 hours which tells you the difference in difficulty from south to north.

If you are thinking about doing the West Coast Trail here are 5 simple steps:

1. Can you and do you want to do the West Coast Trail? If your answer is no then don’t do it.  The southern end is challenging even in a dry year like 2015. Five out of six of us fell at least once on the trek and fortunately had only minor scrapes and bruises.

2. Have the right gear:

– must have: waterproof boots (again even in this drought year 2015 your feet will get wet and wet feet breed blisters), extra socks because once wet nothing dries even if it isn’t raining), pack covers for protecting pack and contents from rain and overnight dew, and of course the usual food, fuel, and toilet paper (one role per person per week is a good rule of thumb). And of course a sense of humor and a sense of adventure.

– optional: Gaiters probably would be a good idea in a year with more rainfall and were helpful even in this dry year to keep sand and water from pouring in over the tops of our boots. Poles are favored by some and considered a nuisance by others – I used the one pole method to keep one hand open to grab onto branches, roots, and anything else to help with balance.  We broke one pole and bent another within the first day on the trail, so the down side was carrying the broken pole the rest of the trek. Camping pillows can help in getting a good night sleep.

– do not bring: Cell phone – contrary to reports we had no cell coverage anywhere including Port Renfrew, the entire trail, and all but the top of one hill in Bamfield so don’t bother bringing it.  Hammocks are not helpful as an alternative to tents due to campsites being on the beach and no suitable place to hang them for most sites. Avoid down sleeping bags or vests as once wet they are not usable.

3. plan your itinerary:

–  Our 5 night itinerary for West Coast Trail 2015 was: Campers Bay (7 hours from start and grueling), Walbran, Dare Beach, Tsusiat Falls, Michigan Creek

– plan to take more time then you think you will need in order to have some time to enjoy the scenery

– south to north worked well for our group in order to get the hardest part (first 2 days of the south end) out of the way and the packs didn’t get that much lighter by the end of the trek anyways.

– plan your water stops and if you have a bigger group be careful to plan for water stops so that the faster hikers do not leave the slower ones without water.  Have lunch at a creek and fill up your water bottles before heading off again.

4. Take your time and watch your step as every step is potentially slippery and as soon as you relax you will slip and fall.

5. Decide how much cash you want to spend at Chez Moniques and the Crab Shack at the Ninat Narrows.  Both have good food but pricey due to the location.  You may also need cash for a cab ride at either end depending on your transportation plans.

And of course have fun!