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Mature focus: June 6

Cataracts and health: Seeing the big picture

Removing cataracts may have important connections to seniors’ overall health.

Cataracts are the most frequent cause of vision loss in people over 40. A clouding and discoloration of the eye’s natural lens, cataracts typically form gradually with age, and anyone who lives long enough is likely to develop them. Common risk factors include long-term exposure of the eyes to sunlight, smoking, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, prolonged use of corticosteroids, extreme nearsightedness and family history.

During June, which is designated nationally as Cataract Awareness Month, it also is interesting to note the potential connections between cataracts and overall health. Not only have they been connected with other common health issues, but treating cataracts also may be related to living longer.

For example, a recent study which investigated the association between common allergic diseases and diseases of the eye in nearly 15,000 adults found that having either asthma or allergic rhinitis each were associated with a 50 percent increased chance of having cataracts. The authors of the study, published in the Journal of Dermatology, said that although the reasons for this are unclear, their findings indicate that efforts should be made to reduce the risk of vision-related complications when treating patients with certain allergic diseases.

Another very large study conducted at the University of California-Los Angeles, which looked at 20 years of data from more than 74,000 women over age 65 who had cataracts, found a 60 percent lower risk of death from any cause among those who had their cataracts removed. Previous studies also have shown a lower mortality risk in men following cataract surgery. In explaining these results, study co-author Dr. Anne L. Coleman of UCLA said that when people can see better, “they can also move more and get more exercise. They can see their pills better and may be more likely to take them and take the right ones. The surgery also improves visual contrast, which decreases the risk of accidental deaths from falls or driving … It’s important to get the best vision a person can have.”

On the calendar

Mid Rivers Mall hosts Summer Senior Days on select Fridays, beginning June 8, from 11:30 a.m.- 2 p.m. at the mall, located at 1600 Mid Rivers Mall Drive in St. Peters, on the upper level near Dillard’s. Sponsored in partnership with Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital and the St. Charles City-County Library, these special events will include health screenings and presentations, line dancing, book club suggestions and much more. The mall’s food court restaurants and food specialty shops will offer special discounts, and those 60 and over can also take advantage of the Marcus 14 Theatre’s $6 Young at Heart matinees. All events are free and reservations are not required. Dates and health presentations include:

• June 8 – Senior stretching movements

• July 13 – Why stay hydrated?

• Aug. 10 – Are you first-aid ready?

• Sept. 7 – Keep your heart healthy

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