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The Healthy Geezer

—Fred Cicetti

Q. I have to have cataract surgery, and I’m a little frightened. Should I be?

I don’t know anyone who isn’t a little frightened by surgery of any kind, but cataract removal is one of the safest and most effective types of surgery. It’s also one of the most common operations performed in the United States. About nine out of 10 people who have the surgery have improved vision.

A cataract is a clouding of the lens, the clear part of the eye that helps focus images like the lens in a camera. Cataracts can blur images and discolor them.

Most cataracts are related to aging. By age 80, more than half of all Americans either have a cataract or have had cataract surgery. There are other causes of cataracts, such as diabetes, eye injury, radiation, and surgery for other eye problems.

Cataracts tend to worsen gradually. The clear lens slowly changes to a yellowish/brownish color, adding a brownish tint to vision. If you have advanced lens discoloration, you may not be able to identify blues and purples.

The most common symptoms of a cataract are blurred images, faded colors, glare, poor night vision, double vision, and frequent prescription changes in your eyeglasses or contact lenses. If you have any of these symptoms, see your doctor because they can be signs of other eye problems.

The symptoms of early cataracts may be improved with new eyeglasses, brighter lighting, antiglare sunglasses, or magnifying lenses. If these measures do not help, surgery is the only effective treatment. The surgeon removes the cloudy lens and replaces it with a plastic lens.

Like every other kind of surgery, there are risks to cataract surgery, such as infection and bleeding. Serious infection can diminish vision. Cataract surgery slightly increases your risk of retinal detachment, a serious condition that demands emergency treatment to prevent permanent impairment or even blindness. The retina is a light-sensitive membrane lining the inner eyeball; it is connected to the brain by the optic nerve.

The operation usually lasts less than one hour and is almost painless. After the operation, a patch may be placed over the eye. Most people who have cataract surgery can go home the same day. In most cases, healing will be complete within eight weeks.

What can you do about cataracts? Wearing sunglasses and a hat with a brim to block ultraviolet sunlight may help delay cataracts. If you smoke, stop. Researchers also believe good nutrition can help reduce the risk of age-related cataracts. They recommend eating green leafy vegetables, fruits, and other foods with antioxidants.

If you are 60 or older, you should have a comprehensive, dilated eye exam at least once every two years. In addition to cataracts, your eye-care professional can check for signs of age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other vision disorders. Early treatment for many eye diseases may save your sight.

If you have a question, please write to fred@healthygeezer.com.


Ditch the junk and whip your diet into shape

—Richard N. Waldman, M.D., President, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

It’s no surprise that the American diet needs work. Our portion sizes are out of control, our calorie intake is too high—and it shows. More than 64 percent of adult women in the U.S. are overweight or obese. But despite eating more, we are getting less nutrition.

Many American women are deficient in nutrients such as iron, potassium, and dietary fiber. This is understandable when you consider that the typical American gets roughly 35 percent of her daily calories from added sugars and solid fats (such as butter and shortening).

The top five sources of calories for the average adult (in order) are grain-based desserts, such as cakes and cookies; yeast breads; chicken and mixed chicken dishes; soda and energy/sports drinks; and alcoholic beverages. These and other low-nutrient foods are loaded with excess calories, sugar, solid fats, and sodium. Overconsumption of these types of food contribute to some of the main causes of death and chronic illness in the U.S., including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.

To help get us back on track, the U.S. Department of Agriculture just released revised dietary guidelines. They offer specific advice on how to eat a healthier diet and maintain a healthy weight to reduce the risk of chronic disease and promote overall well-being.

The recommendations include:

  • Balance the calories you eat with the calories you burn. Depending on age and individual activity levels, women should eat between 1,600–2,400 calories each day. For example, a 35-year-old woman who gets 30–60 minutes of daily exercise should eat roughly 2,000 calorie a day. Women who move less should eat less.
  • Reduce salt intake. According to the guidelines, no one should consume more than one teaspoon (2,300 milligrams) of salt each day. African Americans, children, people age 51 and older, and those with high blood pressure, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease should consume 1,500 mgs or less each day.
  • Replace solid fats with oils, such as canola and olive.
  • Eat more vegetables, fruits, fat-free and low-fat dairy products, and whole grains.
  • Cut back on added sugars and refined grains.
  • Drink more water, and avoid beverages sweetened with added sugars.
  • Increase seafood servings in your diet by choosing these instead of some meat or poultry servings.

Sticking to these guidelines may be challenging at first, but once you become used to eating fresh, tasty, and healthy foods, it will start to become second nature. Give it a try—your body will thank you now and in the future!

To see the full 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans document, go to www.cnpp.usda.gov/dietaryguidelines.htm.


The Six Essentials for Life!

Dr. Mary Lou Skelton will present a workshop on The Six Essentials for Life! at the Placitas Community Library on April 2, from noon until 2 p.m. This is a free program open to the public, and it is interactive—come ready to learn and play.

Topics include:

  • What you eat
  • What you drink
  • How you exercise
  • How you rest
  • How and what you breathe
  • What you think

Your body was created to survive. How you survive depends on your conscious choices in the Six Essentials for Life. If you make good choices, the response is health. If you make bad choices, the responses lead to pain and disease.

Here is a brief summary of the Six Essentials:

  1. Evaluate what you eat. There are two kinds of foods—acid and alkaline. Your body was designed to function in an alkaline state, which requires alkaline foods—mostly fruits and vegetables. Eating too much of the acid foods makes your body acidic, causing acute physical stress.
  2. Evaluate what you drink. Your body is mostly water and needs water as its primary liquid. Since your body was designed to regulate itself internally, drinking external stimulants puts added stress on your body and may interfere with the regulation of blood sugar.
  3. Evaluate how you exercise. Your body needs exercise that increases your heart rate, promotes muscle activity, and aids neurological integration, so your body works as it was designed. Excellent exercises that achieve all three are swimming or walking correctly. Learning the cross crawl exercise helps coordination of the body and the brain.
  4. Evaluate how you rest. Adequate, uninterrupted sleep each night is essential for cellular repair. If you eat large meals too close to bedtime or drink the wrong liquids throughout the day, you overstimulate your body. This makes uninterrupted, restful, repairing sleep difficult. 
  5. Evaluate how and what you breathe. How: Correct breathing is important because it activates the diaphragm in a manner in which it was designed, which augments heart action. Correct breathing helps rebalance the autonomic nervous system. What: If you can smell the air you breathe, it’s stressful to the lungs. While the toxins in your food and liquids are cleaned by the liver before entering the bloodstream, the toxins you breathe— from smoking or living/working in a smoke/smog–filled environment—go directly into your bloodstream.
  6. Evaluate what you think about. What you think about affects your body. Consider that when just thinking about a lemon, your mouth fills with saliva. Consider that when you are angry or in fear, your body will feel as uptight as if you were fighting a tiger. If you worry, your nervous system triggers more acid in your stomach, even if you have nothing in your stomach, producing indigestion and ulcers. A majority of these physically harmful feelings come from replaying the past. Learn how to change what you think about.
     

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