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I’ve been struggling with driving at night as my vision has been declining.

Q. Dear Terry, “I’ve been struggling with driving at night as my vision has been declining. I’m to the point where I don’t even want to drive past sunset. Things get blurry and I have difficulty reading signs. Is there anything I can take to improve my vision? I’m in my 80s and really enjoy the independence that driving gives me.” – Shirley W., Mesa, AZ

A. Dear Shirley, Problems with night vision, also called night blindness, can make objects appear blurry in low light, create “halos” around headlights from oncoming traffic, and make reading signage difficult. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports the fatality rate for older Americans is 17 times higher than the 25 to 65 age group. Much of that difference can be from the way that eyes recover more slowly from light glare and reduced ability to see contrasts.

The retina is located in the back of our eye and is where images are focused. Because it is especially sensitive to free radical damage, the retina can become damaged and make focusing, color differentiation, and night vision more difficult.

Fortunately, there are nutrients that can protect eyes from damage, reverse night blindness, and restore low-light vision.

Vitamin A and zinc work together so effectively that it’s hard to talk about one without the other. Vitamin A is key for eye health, including the strength and integrity of the lens (the front and center portion of the eye) and ability to see in low-light conditions. Zinc is necessary for vitamin A to function. Low levels of these nutrients can put someone at risk of vision issues, including night blindness.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are naturally concentrated in the macula, the central part of the retina where incoming light and images are focused. These nutrients are found in some fruits and vegetables that are rich in carotenoids, but many people aren’t consuming enough of these nutrients from diet alone. A double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that supplementing with lutein and zeaxanthin improved glare recovery time and contrast sensitivity, increased the ability to complete visual tasks in low light, and reduced night driving crash risk in just six months. Additionally, since lutein and zeaxanthin are natural components of the retina, with such strong antioxidant activity, they also protect against the damaging effects of blue light.

Grape seed extract is protective to the delicate structures of the eyes, including the lenses and blood vessels. Research has shown that grape seed extract can protect against cataracts, which is a major risk factor for night blindness. I prefer a grape seed extract that is standardized to be tannin-free with only low-molecular weight oligomeric proanthocyanidins (OPCs) that are easily absorbed in the digestive tract.

I would take 1,500 mcg (5,000 IU) of vitamin A (as retinyl acetate), 30 mg of zinc (from zinc bisglycinate chelate), 100 mg of French grape seed extract (standardized to high levels of polyphenols and tannin free OPCs), 10 mg of lutein (from marigold flower extract), and 500 mcg of zeaxanthin (from marigold flower extract), twice per day.

Healthy Regards!

Terry . . . Naturally

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Terry is happy to provide his opinion on diet and nutrition, supplements and lifestyle choices. This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to replace the advice of your physician and is not to be considered medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Should you have any concerns please contact your physician directly.
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