How Black Americans Can Reduce the Risk of Developing Eye Diseases

Black Americans have a higher risk of developing eye conditions than other groups. Its state of eye health reveals that this particular demographic is at risk of cataracts, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. These issues can be linked to health conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure, which is common among Black Americans due to biological factors, including genetics. If left untreated, these eye conditions can result in blindness.

This is why one of our tips for women over 40 is to protect their vision because aging can increase the risk of these eye conditions. Apart from women and aging adults, Black Americans—in general—should take better care of their eyes. Here are some ways to do it:

Get regular eye exams

Firstly, it’s important to understand your current eye health. While you may not feel or see differently, an optometrist can tell if your eyes are showing symptoms of certain conditions.

Unfortunately, many Black Americans hesitate to get eye exams due to the prejudice and racism they experience from some medical professionals. Luckily, one community is helping break down the barriers in the Black experience in optometry: the Black Eyecare Perspective. This group is dedicated to improving eyecare access by creating a pipeline for Black students into the field. Their website also has a Black eye doctor locator to view the nearest optometrist. Initiatives like this will hopefully encourage more of the Black community to get regular eye exams when a fellow Black person conducts them.

Wear sunglasses

While you may hear that people of color are better protected against sun exposure thanks to the melanin in your skin, you still need to guard yourself against the sun. Sun exposure can contribute to the development of many eye diseases, like cataracts.

One way to shield your eyes is by always wearing sunglasses—even when it’s cloudy or snowing. Invest in a pair with 100% UV protection to block harmful rays, which can bounce off the water or ground. You can also choose sunglasses with polarized lenses to reduce harsh glares that can obstruct your vision. Oakley and Ray-Ban are some of the top sunglasses brands that offer UV protection. You may also wear a hat as additional protection. Pick one with a wide brim that shades your eyes—like a braided straw hat from Madewell.

Maintain a healthy diet

As mentioned above, diabetes and high blood pressure are linked to many eye conditions. To prevent such diseases, maintain a healthy and balanced diet. Consuming too much sugar can increase your risk of diabetes, while eating many fatty foods contributes to high blood pressure.

Focus on having healthy meals consisting of food from different food groups, such as fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy fats. For instance, you can have a balanced meal with a salad, whole wheat bread, eggs, and some nuts. Be mindful of your portions and limit eating unhealthy food like chips or sweets.

Increase your physical activity

In relation to a balanced diet, increasing your exercise levels is essential. This helps you burn extra calories that will otherwise turn into fat and contribute to diabetes or high blood pressure development.

There are many ways to elevate your activity levels, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator and walking to and from your destination. If you’re ready for more challenging exercises, try jumping rope, running on the treadmill, or swimming. The key is to squeeze as much activity as you can to prevent diabetes, for one, which can lead to eye conditions like macular edema.

Black communities are vulnerable to eye diseases. So, reduce your risk of developing such conditions by getting eye exams, wearing sunglasses, and living healthily.