THE LEADING CAUSE of blindness worldwide is cataracts, a condition currently affecting more than 25 million Americans age 40
and older, according to Prevent Blindness.
A cataract clouds the lens of the eye, which
works with the cornea to focus light rays on
the retina. That clouding changes or totally
blocks the way light passes through the eye,
interfering with clear vision. But with cataracts, unlike other causes of vision loss, a
commonly performed surgery can restore
While cataracts are part of the aging process, there are other risk factors, including
overexposure to ultraviolet rays from the sun,
eye injuries, smoking, long-term steroid use
and certain diseases, such as diabetes.
Symptoms of a cataract
A cataract does not typically cause pain,
redness or tears. Watch for these signs:
• Blurred vision, double vision, ghost
images or the sense of a film over
• Light seems too dim for reading
or close-up work, or overwhelmingly
• Eyeglass prescriptions change often,
without vision improvement.
• Obvious appearance of a milky or
yellowish spot in the pupil of your eye.
If you notice any of these changes, get an
exam from your eye doctor.
Eye exam to diagnose cataracts
In addition to learning your medical and
vision history, the doctor will:
• Test your vision (visual acuity).
• Test your side (peripheral) vision.
• Test your eye movement.
• Test you for glaucoma by measuring
the eye’s internal pressure.
• Assess the density of a cataract and
how it interferes with light passing
through the lens.
• Widen (dilate) the pupils of your eyes
to examine the retina, the optic nerve
and the macula.
Visit preventblindness.org/cataract for
more information. Also see the video on
dilated eye exams in our May 2016 issue
( costcoconnection.com).—David Wight
for your health
OCTORS AND concerned relatives recommend weight loss to
anyone who is overweight or
obese, but dieting has never been
shown to improve people’s health over the
long run. Part of the problem is that most
weight loss is temporary. Almost everyone
gains back his or her lost weight (and o;en
more) within ;ve years a;er a diet.
;ere’s no evidence that weight loss alone
improves health either. For example, the Look
AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes)
study was designed to determine whether
long-term dieting would reduce the high risk
of heart disease in obese people with diabetes.
After 9. 6 years, dieters and non-dieters
showed no difference in death rates from
heart disease, though more than half the dieters maintained at least a 5 percent weight loss.
A 19-year study in Denmark found similar
results: Weight loss had no e;ect on deaths
among diabetic patients.
Why would doctors recommend an intervention with a high failure rate and no evidence for positive long-term health e;ects?
Diets are o;en successful in the short term,
which can make it easy to ignore their long-term weaknesses. But the more interesting
issue is that dieters o;en do become healthier
in the beginning, probably because they
improve their lifestyle. Much research supports the idea that lifestyle changes have a
strong in;uence on health, but dieters usually
attribute their improved health to the weight
loss, rather than to healthy habits like exercise
and eating more vegetables.
;at’s a shame, because health improvements due to weight loss are likely to be temporary. When dieters stop losing weight or
start regaining it, they o;en give up their
healthy habits and lose their health gains. If
By Dr. Sandra Aamodt
the healthy habits were a
goal in their own right,
people wouldn’t drop
them just because their
weight goals turned out
to be unreachable.
For health, the most
important habit is daily
exercise. No matter how
much people weigh, physical activity predicts
better health. People who rarely get o; the
couch are more than twice as likely to die prematurely as people who exercise moderately,
whether they are normal weight, overweight
or obese. In contrast, people who are obese
and ;t have only slightly more risk than nor-mal-weight, ;t people.
;ese data indicate that exercise habits are
much more important than weight in deter-
mining the risk of early death. ;e Cochrane
Collaboration, recognized experts in evaluat-
ing medical evidence, agrees that “exercise
improves health even if no weight is lost.”
Our culture’s intense focus on weight loss
suggests that obesity must be uniquely deadly,
but that’s far from true. Low ;tness is esti-
mated to be responsible for 16 to 17 percent
of deaths in the U.S., while obesity accounts
for only 2 to 3 percent once the e;ects of ;t-
ness are factored out. Smoking, high blood
pressure, low income and loneliness are also
better predictors of early death than obesity,
when considered individually.
Exercising 30 minutes a day is more e;ective than dieting 24 hours a day. ;at’s the deal
of a lifetime—a longer, healthier lifetime. C
Dr. Sandra Aamodt is the author of Why Diets
Make Us Fat: ;e Unintended Consequences
of Our Obsession With Weight Loss (Penguin
Random House, 2016; not available at Costco).
Dr. Sandra Aamodt
© LZF / SHUTTERSTOCK
OUR DIGITAL EDITIONS
Click here for a video about cataracts
provided by the National Eye Institute.