Vitamin C and A for vision and to fight cancer and other invading organisms

guava car.JPGVitamin C (water soluble) and A (fat soluble) for vision and cancer fighting properties: both from colored fruits and veggies

Signs that you are low in Vitamin C and A is when your vision is weak and you get allergies and get tired or sick easily.

Eat Vit A (afternoon) together with good fatty foods and eat Vit C (morning) with water soluble foods. Vitamin C is important in the absorption of most minerals and nutrients in the body such as Calcium, magnesium, iron and others.

Ascorbic acid becomes widely distributed in body tissues with large concentrations found in the liver, leukocytes, platelets, glandular tissues, and the lens of the eye. In the plasma about 25% of the ascorbic acid is bound to proteins.   Ascorbic acid crosses the placenta; cord blood concentration are generally 2 to 4 times the concentration in maternal blood. Ascorbic acid is distributed into milk. In nursing mothers on a normal diet the milk contains 40 to 70 ug/mL of the vitamin.  Food Sources of Vitamin C ranked by mg of vitamin C per standard amount; also calories in the standard amount. (All provide ≥ 20% of RDA for adult men, which is 90 mg/day.)

Whole Food, Standard Amount Vitamin C (mg) Calories
Guava, raw, ½ cup 188 56
Red sweet pepper, raw, ½cup 142 20
Red sweet pepper, cooked, ½ cup   116 19
Kiwi fruit, 1 medium 70 46
Orange, raw, 1 medium 70 62
Orange juice, ¾ cup 61-93 79-84
Green pepper, sweet, raw, ½ cup 60   15
Green pepper, sweet, cooked, ½ cup 51   19
Grapefruit juice, ¾ cup 50-70 71-86
Vegetable juice cocktail, ¾ cup 50 34
Strawberries, raw, ½ cup 49 27
Brussels sprouts, cooked, ½ cup 48 28
Cantaloupe, ¼ medium 47 51
Papaya, raw, ¼ medium (strong enzyme) 47 30
Kohlrabi, cooked, ½ cup 45 24
Broccoli, raw, ½ cup 39 15
Edible pod peas, cooked, ½ cup 38 34
Broccoli, cooked, ½ cup 37 26
Sweet potato, canned, ½ cup 34   116
Tomato juice, ¾ cup 33 31
Cauliflower, cooked, ½ cup 28 17
Pineapple, raw, ½ cup 28 37
Kale, cooked, ½ cup 27 18
Mango, ½ cup 23 54

Vitamin A for growth and bone development

In humans, an exogenous source of vitamin A is required for growth (hormones and others) and bone development, vision, reproduction, and the integrity of mucosal and epithelial surfaces. In the retina, retinol is converted to the aldehyde, cis-retinal, which combines with opsin to form rhodopsin, and visual pigment. Vitamin A has been reported to act as a cofactor in various biochemical reactions including mucopolysaccharide synthesis, cholesterol synthesis, and hydroxysteroid metabolism.

Cholesterol synthesis happens during the night and so is Vitamin A. Women should especially sleep before 10pm to follow the normal body rhythm and hormone production. Cholesterol and Vitamin A are important in hormone production.

Vitamin A is essential for growth and bone development in children, for vision (particularly in dim light), and for integrity of mucosal and epithelial surfaces.

Vitamin A deficiency leads to xerophthalmia, Bitot’s spots, keratomalacia, night blindness (nyctalopia), hyperkeratosis of the skin, epithelial metaplasia of mucous membranes, and decreased resistance to infections. Administration of vitamin A completely reverses signs of vitamin deficiency unless keratomalacia has resulted in irreversible ocular damage.

Retinol inhibited the mutagenic activity of aflatoxin b1 when added to the Ames salmonella/mammalian microsome assay.

Concurrent use of vitamin E may facilitate absorption, hepatic storage, and utilization of vitamin A, and reduce toxicity; excessive doses may deplete vitamin A stores.

Concurrent use /of tetracycline/ with vitamin A 50,000 Units a day and higher has been reported to cause benign intracranial hypertension.

Vitamin A administration induces a high risk of intoxication in patients with chronic renal failure.

From epidemiological research it is argued that low vitamin A intake is associated with a higher incidence of cancer in different tissues.

Food Sources of Vitamin A ranked by micrograms Retinol Activity Equivalents (RAE) of vitamin A per standard amount; also calories in the standard amount. (All are ≥ 20% of RDA for adult men, which is 900 mg/day RAE.)

Food Sources

Whole Food, Standard Amount Vitamin A
(μg RAE)
Calories
Organ meats (liver, giblets), various, cooked, 3 oza 1490-9126 134-235
Carrot juice, ¾ cup 1692   71
Sweetpotato with peel, baked, 1 medium 1096 103
Pumpkin, canned, ½ cup (and yams are happy food) 953 42
Carrots, cooked from fresh, ½ cup 671 27
Spinach, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 573 30
Collards, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 489 31
Kale, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 478 20
Mixed vegetables, canned, ½ cup 474   40
Turnip greens, cooked from frozen, ½ cup 441 24
Instant cooked cereals, fortified, prepared, 1 packet 285-376 75-97
Various ready-to-eat cereals, with added vit. A, ~1 oz 180-376 100-117
Carrot, raw, 1 small 301 20
Beet greens, cooked, ½ cup (for hormonal balance) 276 19
Winter squash, cooked, ½ cup 268 38
Dandelion greens, cooked, ½ cup 260 18
Cantaloupe, raw, ¼ medium melon 233 46
Mustard greens, cooked, ½ cup 221 11
Pickled herring, 3 oz 219 222
Red sweet pepper, cooked, ½ cup 186 19
Chinese cabbage, cooked, ½ cup 180 10

Note: For those with thyroid problems, cooked your greens and most veggies.

Smart Home accommodations for seniors and special needs

smart home thermostat on wall of seniors home

Implementing smart home solutions

Imagine this scenario: You come home from work and your front door, sensing your presence, automatically unlocks for you. You walk in, carrying bags of groceries, and as you enter the kitchen, the lights turn themselves on. You put your groceries away and realizing that you forgot an item, you send a request to your grocery store for a delivery using a touchscreen built right into the refrigerator. You settle down in the living room to watch television. Sensing that you’re slightly chilly from information gathered from your smart watch, the thermostat automatically increases the temperature of your home to keep you comfortable. You go to bed at 10:30, like always, and as you pull the covers up over your head, your bedroom lights automatically dim. If you listen carefully, you can hear the click of your doors automatically locking for the night.

Does this scenario sound like a scene from a futuristic sci-fi movie? Believe it or not, the technology described above already exists, and can be retrofitted into almost any home in America with the expertise of the right contractor or solution provider. Across the country, individuals are implementing such smart home solutions to lead more comfortable and convenient lives. Not only accessible to the mega-rich, a self-adjusting thermostat, or a security system that can be controlled from your mobile phone, are now budget-friendly additions that nearly anyone can have.

Perhaps some of the greatest opportunities that smart home technology offers are for the elderly and the disabled, for whom living at home can pose daily struggles. Thanks to smart home technology, seniors and disabled adults are able to live in their own homes with less fear or restriction, giving them a sense of freedom and confidence they have been missing for years.

Struggles with home living

This guide was designed to provide a thorough understanding of the latest smart home technology, and suggestions for specific software and devices that can be incorporated into a home to accommodate each of seven of the most common types of disabilities: hearing difficulty, vision difficulty, speech/language difficulty, cognitive difficulty or memory loss, ambulatory difficult, arthritis, and self-care/independent living difficulty.

If you or a loved one struggle with daily home living due to a disability, this guide will offer inspiration and actionable advice for opportunities to make your home life more comfortable and convenient through use of the latest smart home technology. To help you plan, no matter your financial situation, we’ve indicated for each product if the solution will accommodate a low ($), moderate ($$), or high smart home budget ($$$).

What is a Smart Home, and How Does It Work?

The term smart home covers a wide range of home-based technology that is integrated between devices using an Internet connection. From the home dweller’s perspective, a smart home provides comfort, security, safety, accessibility, energy efficiency, and convenience through the use of appliances, lighting, electronic equipment, heating and cooling systems, entertainment systems, and home security solutions. In a smart home, all such devices can be controlled remotely by any desktop computer or mobile device with Internet access, or preset using a pre-defined preferential schedule. They can even be customized on a room-by-room basis. Many smart home solutions can also accept voice commands for the ultimate in-home convenience.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

Smart homes are becoming a large component of a digital phenomenon known as the Internet of Things (IoT). The IoT refers to all those devices that are interconnected and identifiable to one another through digital networks. Think of your smart watch talking to your home security system via the Internet. As technology continues to advance, it’s predicted that such interconnectivity will become the norm, and will continue to be a necessity for individuals who struggle with daily home-related activities due to age or disability.

The Genesis of Home Device Interconnectivity

Believe it or not, the catalyst for smart home technology preceded the twenty first century. It all began in 1975 when a Scottish company developed a product known as X10. X10 allowed compatible products to “talk” to one another using a home’s electrical system. The X10 allowed for such conveniences as turning off a lamp in the bedroom while seated in the living room. Though using what we would today consider a primitive technology system, fundamentally the X10 aimed to deliver many of the conveniences smart home technology companies aim for today.

Why are Smart Home Features Gaining in Popularity?

At one time, smart homes and smart home devices were thought to be only obtainable by the wealthy, and only desirable by the tech-savvy, such as Bill Gates who spent over $100 million building his smart home outside Seattle, Washington. Aside from interest in smart home features purely for the cool-factor that they offer digital-trend setters, smart home technology is gaining in popularity among those who want to optimize their home to ensure safety, energy efficiency or leverage technology to overcome the hurdles of home-living in the face of a disability.

Another reason smart home device use is on the rise, is due to the proliferation of new, interconnected technology. Some of the most advanced technology companies are finding ways to connect such everyday devices as thermostats and stereo systems to the IoTs. Such availability of products is making it affordable and convenient for the average home owner, or the special needs home owner, to bring smart technology into their home.

Smart Home Advancements

For many years, the pinnacle of smart home innovation was Bill Gates’ $100 million creation. At Gates’ smart home, everyone is pinned with an electronic tracking chip. As one travels through the home, lights turn on ahead of you, and fade as you leave a room behind. Your favorite music, or the television show you’re watching, will follow you from room to room. Perhaps most impressively, if two individuals enter the same room, the smart system will attempt to compromise on settings it believes both occupants will enjoy.

While Gates’ home may have paved the way for smart home innovation, advancements in smart home technology are being made annually. According to Kigo, a vacation rental software company, 10 percent of U.S. broadband households intend to purchase a smart thermostat in the next year. Even more impressive? Kigo advises that global smart home connected appliances are expected to reach 223 million units by 2020. While smart home technology used to be the focus of only techy start-ups, it is now being adopted by more established entities, such as Amazon, that launched “Alexa,” its intelligent personal assistant smart home device in 2014 that integrates with its Echo smart speaker. What follows are some of the key milestones in modern smart home innovation. Click here to view a full interactive smart home timeline from Mashable:

  • 1975 – ¬X10 is created in Scotland to connect devices with one another.
  • 2010 – Nest, the Wi-Fi connected thermostat is introduced to the market.
  • 2012 – The app SmartThings is launched on Kickstarter. By 2013, it had shipped more than 10,000 hubs.
  • 2013 – Smart home devices dominate at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES), the biggest international tradeshow focused on consumer electronics.
  • 2015 – Such smart home innovations enter the market as the self-watering (and talking) flower pot, and a Wi-Fi connected coffee pot.

Establishing Protocols

To date, there have been no standard regulations for the automation of home devices, leading some to hesitate before smart-retrofitting their homes. There is also no overarching governing body, making some fear the consequences of a smart home hacked by cyber extortionists.

There are some entities attempting to offer guidance to developers and tech companies, however. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) is a leading consensus building organization that nurtures, develops and advances global technologies, through IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for the benefit of humanity. In addition, Zigbee is a non-profit organization that serves as the only open, global wireless standard to provide the foundation for the IoT by enabling simple and smart objects to work together to improve comfort and efficiency in everyday life. The ZigBee Alliance is an open, non-profit association of approximately 400 members working to drive development of innovative, reliable, and easy-to-use ZigBee standards.

Digitalization. Cheerful and positive senior woman in wheelchair using laptop

Smart Home Advantages for Seniors and The Disabled

In a world where lights can turn themselves on and off as you pass through rooms, and pantries can maintain their own inventories, the impact that such conveniences can have is maybe felt greatest of all for those that suffer from age-related or developmental disabilities. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it’s estimated that one out of every five adults in the United States is living with a disability. The most common disabilities include:

For each of the disabilities listed above, what was once an incapacitating disorder that made living independently in one’s home nearly impossible, life-simplifying smart-home technology advancements are allowing individuals to remain comfortably, and safely, in their own homes—where they most want to be. What follows are smart home solutions that can make independent living possible for each of the previously listed disabilities. No matter the budget.

Hearing Difficulty

According to the Hearing Loss Association of America, it’s estimated that 20 percent of Americans are living with some degree of hearing loss. The most impacted population segment includes seniors, as one out of three individuals at age 65 suffers from hearing loss. Imagine the challenges of an individual living alone who suffers from a hearing disability. How many audio cues do you rely upon in your home? If you could not hear, how would you know if your doorbell rang? When your oven timer was done? When your washing machine or dishwasher finished its cycle? Or if a home intruder was attempting to break in? Consider these smart home innovations for the hearing impaired:

Colored Notification Lights

A smart home convenience that can add comfort and reassurance to the home of a hearing-impaired resident is the installation of a colored light notification system. To help alert the hearing impaired of a variety of scenarios, the latest smart home innovations blink, and even use a series of colors to signify different types of alerts. For example, you may be able to customize your home so that your lights blink orange when a stranger arrives at your door, or purple when a specific family member comes home, or blink blue to indicate laundry is done. Such alerts help the hearing impaired to maintain a self-sufficient home environment.
Such lighting systems are available with a variety of features, from voice-controlled dimming (working in conjunction with Amazon Echo’s Alexa), while others allow for more customized color notification programming. They range from around $30 for a voice controlled dimming light to $200 for a complete set with greater capabilities.

Pros Colored lights can notify you of a variety of pre-defined home needs.
Cons The bulbs are more expensive than traditional light bulb, and also require the purchase and installation of a hub device.
Customizations Some systems allow you to customize what each flashing color indicates, allowing you to lead a more informed and confident home life.
Product Considerations Some brands, such as the Philips Hue, can integrate with smart home hubs, such as the Amazon Echo. If you plan to integrate your lights with existing systems, make sure the brands you choose are compatible with your existing equipment.
Installation Some customization and personalization may be required to set color preferences, or to tie into a smart home hub, however professional installation should not be required.
Budget $$

Smart Doorbells

A variety of smart doorbells have been designed to assist the hearing impaired. Some integrate with smartphone apps and can alert a hearing-impaired individual when someone is at the door by causing the phone to vibrate or blink an alert light.

Taking the concept one step further, a camera doorbell allows an individual to see who is on the other side of the door by sending a camera feed to a smart phone. Through an interconnected speaker system, the homeowner can also speak to the guest. In the case of seniors with hearing loss or mobility issues, this allows them to ask their guest to wait while they make their way to the door.

An alternative smart doorbell option functions through the use of audio frequency waves. These products emit a sound on a unique frequency that can be detected by the deaf.

Perhaps the most fully functioning products add an additional security component by adding a motion sensor to detect activity outside the home. Such features help protect the hearing impaired from the threat of a home break-in by alerting the home owner with a smart phone alert when it’s detected that someone is outside the home.

Pros Smart doorbells can offer the hearing impaired the comfort and security of knowing they are protected from intruders, and that they won’t miss an important visitor. As an added security feature, a homeowner can turn on the doorbell camera to check on the house at any time.
Cons Most, with the exception of the audio frequency options, require integration with an existing smart phone.
Customizations Some smart doorbells can be integrated with home security systems, allowing you to give a voice command to unlock the door if you’ve been notified of a visitor, and have confirmed visually that it’s someone you want to let into your home.
Product Considerations Budget may be the most significant factor when deciding which smart doorbell to select. Most smart doorbells are available for a few hundred dollars, depending on their features, although stand-alone audio frequency doorbells are typically the least expensive. If you have a smart home hub that connects multiple smart home products, you may want to choose a doorbell that can integrate with your hub.
Installation If you choose a more complex system that requires integration with a home security system, you may want to consider professional installation.
Budget $ – $$
Also Benefits Those with mobility issues.

Two-Way Communication Device

To enable the deaf or hearing impaired to more easily participate in dialogue with those who do not speak sign language, UNI is a smart assistive technology gaining popularity and support on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo. The product, which is designed in the shape and size of a tablet, detects hand and finger gestures with a special camera algorithm that converts the sign language into text for the non-hearing impaired. It is also equipped with a microphone that converts speech into text to assist the hearing impaired. When both participants in the conversation are using an UNI device, they can carry on a meaningful conversation. The device sells for about $200.

Pros UNI does not require Wi-Fi to use the sign-to-voice and voice recognition features, which means it can be used even when Wi-Fi is not available.
Cons UNI is not yet available via mainstream retailers. To reserve an UNI device, visit the company’s page on Indiegogo. Also, in addition to the purchase price, UNI requires an annual subscription, which means you will be subject to ongoing costs.
Customizations UNI allows a user to save custom language to its dictionaries to personalize the experience for the user. UNI also remembers your movements to constantly improve its translations.
Product Considerations UNI is only compatible with English and American Sign Language. If English or ASL are not the primary languages of the intended users, UNI will not be a viable communication option.
Installation There is no installation required for UNI, just the need to learn its interface and capabilities.
Budget $$

Vision Difficulty

It’s estimated by the CDC that 4.6 percent of Americans have a vision disability. In addition, it’s estimated that 6.5 million Americans over age 65 have a severe vision impairment. No matter the age at which vision loss occurs, the possibility of not being able to live an independent lifestyle can be terrifying. Vision difficulties may mean an inability to navigate one’s home, identify safety risks in the home, or detect intruders. Consider these smart home innovations for the vision impaired:

Voice-Controlled Home Entertainment Systems

The visually impaired still enjoy listening to their favorite television shows, however managing television equipment and interacting with standard visually based interfaces can be impossible. New innovations in entertainment systems offer the visually impaired the ability to change channels with voice commands and listen to a talking guide.

Pros Independent management of home electronics.
Cons Functionality is typically limited to searching for content, and does not assist with other needs, such as volume or power control.
Product Considerations Solutions are available from Apple TV, Samsung, and Comcast. The decision for which system to choose may depend on your other home electronics and their compatibility with one another.
Installation Assistance will be needed to set-up the hardware and, if applicable, integrate the device with the home internet system.
Budget $$
Also Benefits Those with mobility issues or arthritis.

smart home hub with speaker

Smart Home Hubs

Devices such as Amazon’s Echo with Alexa, the Apple Home KitGoogle Home, or SmartThings offer home owners the ability to give voice commands in order to access information or control a variety of integrated home devices. For a modest fee, a smart home device can be set up to command a variety of smart home devices, such as home security systems, home entertainment systems, and thermostats, using voice commands—an ideal capability and ultra-convenience for the visually impaired.

With a smart hub, a vision impaired home owner could request to hear a summary of the latest news, or ask for a timer or alarm clock to be set. By integrating your smart hub with other smart phone devices, oral commands can be given to lock the doors, turn the television on to a specific channel, or turn the lights off in the room. The Amazon Echo retails for about $180, and the Google Home retails for about $120. Additional smart home devices are sold separately.

Pros Can act as a stand-alone device or as a smart home hub when paired with other compatible smart technology.
Cons Each hub product is compatible with a different set of smart home devices, so if integration is desired, research will be needed to determine which devices can integrate with one another.
Customizations For the tech savvy, some smart home hubs can be customized further, as the Amazon Echo provides a channel on IFTTT, a free online automation service that lets individuals craft their own automated command preferences using an “if this, then that” logic.
Product Considerations Depending on your home and interconnectivity needs, plan to research the capabilities of each type of device to choose the brand that suits your needs. Currently, the Echo integrates with more smart home device brands. While Google integrates with August, Belkin Wemo, Frigidaire, Honeywell, Insignia, Lifx, Logitech Harmony, Next, Philips, Rachio, Samsung, TP-Link, Wink, and anything with a Chromecast attached to it, the Echo supports all of those except Chromecast, as well as Blink, Carrier, DigitalStrom, Haiku, Leviton, Lowe’s Iris, Lutron, Netatmo, and many others.
Installation Setting up a stand-alone smart home device does not require hard wiring or complex integration; however technical assistance may be needed if you intend to customize your smart home hub to help you command other smart home devices.
Budget $$
Also Benefits Those with mobility issues, or arthritis.

Smart Braille Watch

The Dot Watch provides the visually impaired with the freedom to communicate and live more independently. It is the first Braille smartwatch and it can connect via Bluetooth to any smartphone, then retrieve and translate text into Braille on the face of the watch, one letter at a time. It can notify the wearer of emails, tweets, or even allow him to read a book, in addition to, of course, telling time. While much less expensive than most braille readers, the Dot Watch will retail, once available, for about $290.

Pros Allows the wearer to read incoming messages, emails, tweets, and books.
Cons The Dot Watch is still in production and is only accepting pre-orders. The initial release will only be available in English and Korean.
Customizations The initial launch will not offer customization.
Product Considerations The primary consideration for a visually impaired individual considering at Dot Watch is if they would prefer to read messages in braille, or use a device that can speak incoming messages, such as a smart phone or smart home hub.
Installation Not required.
Budget $$

Speech or Language Difficulty

According to the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), approximately 7.5 million Americans have trouble using their voices. The causes are far ranging. Spasmodic dysphonia, for example, is a voice disorder caused by involuntary movements of one or more of the muscles in the larynx that can affect anyone. Women between the ages of 30 and 50 are particularly susceptible to the condition. In addition, Laryngeal papillomatosis, a condition in which tumor grow inside the larynx, though rare, can severely impact speech as well. Another cause of speech disability includes cleft palate, the fourth most common birth defect and one that impacts one out of every 700 live births.

Speech disabilities sometimes accompany hearing loss, particularly in cases where an individual is born with a hearing disability, or develops one at a young age, and the development of speech capabilities is impeded. Whether an individual experiences speech disability alone, or it is accompanied by hearing loss, they face unique challenges in managing their day-to-day lives. What follows is a smart home solution for the speech impaired.

Speech Interpretation

Talkitt is an application that helps individuals with speech impediments to better communicate with those around them by translating unintelligible pronunciations into understandable speech. The device works in any language. Currently, the initial device, plus a three-year subscription, can be purchased for $250.

Pros Allows the hearing impaired to better communicate with others who may not be able to understand them due to a speech impediment.
Cons Talkitt is not yet available for purchase through traditional retail. It is still in the process of generating funding through Indiegogo. Talkitt will require an annual subscription, so after initial purchase, additional fees will apply.
Customizations Talkitt recognizes patterns in an individual’s speech and creates a personal speech dictionary for the user to produce more accurate translations over time.
Product Considerations Only one version of Talkitt will be part of the initial launch. In the future, the brand intends to make its application available on desktop computers and wearable devices.
Installation No installation is required. Talkitt can be downloaded onto any smart phone or tablet.
Budget $$

Cognitive Difficulty

According to the CDC, 10.6 percent of Americans have a cognition disability. Adults 45 to 64 years of age are more likely than any other age group of adults to report a cognitive disability. In addition, memory loss, dementia and Alzheimer’s are serious condition that impact seniors, making it extremely difficult for them to safely live independent lives as their cognitive abilities deteriorate. Alzheimer’s disease is a degenerative brain disease and is the most common cause of dementia, a condition characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills that impacts an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities. Fortunately, thanks to advances in smart home technology, more seniors and individuals with cognitive disabilities are able to live in their own homes, and more independently, longer. Below are some innovations helping keep those with cognitive difficulty safe and comfortable at home.

Health Monitoring

One of the greatest concerns for patients with cognitive disabilities is the fear that if not properly cared for, they will fail to take proper care of themselves. There are plenty of low-tech Telehealth and other software systems that can help organize medication schedules, but thanks to a new device called Lively, family members and caregivers are able to better monitor those with cognitive disabilities—remotely. With Lively, sensors are placed around the home that learn an individual’s normal routine for such activities as taking medications, sleeping, eating, as well as their typical activity habits. The information is captured by the sensors and interpreted by the Lively Hub where it is sent to a website.

Caregivers and family members can refer to the patient’s Lively web portal to view activity. Most importantly, Lively will ping notifications if it determines abnormal or unsafe activity. Lively sensors can be attached to a refrigerator to ensure the patient is eating properly, to pill bottles to ensure medication is being taken at the right times, or to a set of keys to monitor time out of the house. Currently, the Lively system retails for about $50.

Pros Thanks to the integration with the Lively Hub, a Wi-Fi connection or home network are not needed.
Cons Some users have reported inconsistent effectiveness of the device sensors.
Customizations Lively learns patterns in an individual’s behavior so that if abnormal behavior is identified, caregivers can be alerted.
Product Considerations Only one version of Lively is available at this time.
Installation Installation is easy and simply requires set up of the sensors, plug in of the hub, and learning how to interface with the website.
Budget $
Also Benefits Those with a self-care disability, or mobility issues.

Key Finders

As memory begins to decline, one of the most common daily frustrations is remembering were important home items have been left, such as house keys. A key finder typically works with a Bluetooth device and can be connected to a smart phone to help identify the location of lost keys. A wide range of products are available that start at $8, and increase to $60.

Pros Most key finders can be attached to more than just a set of keys to help keep track of a variety of important home items.
Cons In most cases, if you are caring for someone remotely, you’ll need to be in close proximity to help them locate lost keys using the smart phone paired to the tracking device.
Customizations Some products offer geofencing, which means you’ll receive an alert if your keys travel outside a pre-set range.
Product Considerations Some options, such as the Track Bravo can be integrated with a smart home hub. Also, various products have different ranges, so depending on the size of your home or property, be sure to choose the product that best suits your anticipated needs.
Installation No installation is required, just pairing with your mobile device.
Budget $
Also Benefits Those with mobility issues.

Ambulatory Difficulty

The CDC estimates that 13 percent of Americans have a mobility disability. Mobility challenges can stem from a variety of causes, including birth defects, amputations, general age-related impairments, or injuries. For someone who has developed an injury, one of their greatest fears is the loss of their freedom, and the worry that they will no longer be able to live independently in their home. A variety of smart home solutions are helping those with mobility issues remain in their homes and live capable, independent lives.

Internet-Connected Electronics

For homes not previously built to accommodate someone in a wheelchair, day-to-day activities as simple as turning light switches on and off can become daunting tasks. Now, there are smart home solutions that will connect home electronic systems to the Internet, allowing lights to be controlled from a smartphone. This includes lighting, window blinds, pet feeders, air conditioners, washers and dryers, sprinkler systems, ovens, and thermostats.

Pros Those with limited mobility can interact with essential home devices from the safety of a wheelchair, or without the fear of a fall.
Cons For some, the availability of a variety of interconnected devices becomes difficult to manage when each requires the use of a separate mobile phone app. For many, this is the benefit of choosing devices that can integrate with a single smart home hub device.
Customizations Depending on the device, some can be programmed to perform specific activities at certain times (like turn your bedroom lights on every day at 6 a.m.), or can learn your preferences over time.
Product Considerations A growing number of manufacturers are entering each category of interconnected home electronics. Choosing the product that is right for you will depend on your budget, your needs, and whether or not the device needs to integrate with a smart home hub.
Installation Installation varies by product. A pet feeder, for example simply needs to be plugged in and tethered to your Wi-Fi, while a sprinkler system will require professional installation.
Budget $ – $$
Also Benefits Those with a self-care disability, or arthritis.

smart house, home automation, device with app icons. Man uses his smartphone with smarthome security app to unlock the door of his house.

Door Locks and Security Systems

Smart home locks security systems give individuals with mobility issues the comfort of knowing that they are safe in their own home. A range of products is available. Basic models allow an individual to lock and unlock doors using a smart phone, a convenience for individuals for whom walking across the home to lock and unlock the doors throughout the day can be a challenge.

More sophisticated systems offer more complex home monitoring and capabilities that allow you to turn lights on and off, lock doors, and view video cameras no matter where you are in the world, as long as you are connected to the Internet.

Pros The convenience and comfort of knowing you can maintain a safe home. Most products integrate seamlessly with most deadbolts. As an additional security feature, you can choose to be notified if your door opens, even if you’re not at home.
Cons Some smart home security systems require a contract in order to utilize their full surveillance capabilities, so make sure ongoing costs factor into your budget.
Customizations Some products can be customized with a preferred schedule, so that doors lock and unlock at the same time every day, depending on your needs. You can also set some products to automatically lock your door if it has been unlocked for a predetermined amount of time.
Product Considerations Depending on your needs and your budget, choosing the right product will mean deciding if you simply need to lock and unlock doors using a smart phone in order to accommodate mobility difficulties, or if you need more robust security and surveillance services. In addition, some smart home locks and security features can integrate with other smart products, such as a smart home hub. If integration is essential to you needs, be sure to choose a product that is compatible with other products in your home.
Installation Depending on the system you choose, you may need both technical set-up assistance, and professional installation.
Budget $ – $$
Also Benefits Those with a self-care disability, or arthritis.

Motion Controlled Smart Phone

Many smart home devices function with smart phone integration, yet for those who suffer from mobility issues, the ability to use a touch screen may not be possible. To assist those without the control of their hands, the Sesame Phone accepts commands using small head movements tracked with a front-facing camera. Head movements mirror typical touch movement. For example, gesturing to the right tells the device to swipe right. A nod may tell the device to play. The Sesame Phone retails for $1200.

Sesame Phone is only compatible with Android apps.

Pros Sesame Phone can also function with voice commands.
Cons
Customizations By integrating the Sesame Phone with other smart devices, or with a smart hub, the phone can be used for more than just phone calls. It can be used to control other smart home devices, such as home electronics, or the thermostat.
Product Considerations Sesame currently only utilizes the Google Nexus phone for its hardware. If you currently utilize an iPhone that is integrated with other devices, switching to an Android phone may result in other integration issues.
Installation No set-up is required.
Budget $$$
Also Benefits Those with a speech disability

Arthritis

What may seem like an inconvenience, is truly a disability for the millions of people living with the pain and limited mobility that accompanies Arthritis. According to the CDC, from 2013 to 2015, an estimated 54.4 million U.S. adults annually had been diagnosed with a form of arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, gout, lupus, or fibromyalgia—all conditions that cause severe pain and limited movement, and can make basic household chores a challenge.
While many of the solutions available for individuals with mobility issues can benefit those with Arthritis, such as Internet controlled electronics, in addition, the product below can benefit those living with this chronic pain condition.

Smart Toothbrush

Oral health is important to overall health, yet for individuals living with arthritis, the simple act of vigorously brushing their teeth can be a challenge. Now smart toothbrushes are making oral care easier for those with grip and coordination issues. Smart toothbrushes provides much of the brushing action necessary with less manual movement, helping to ease discomfort for those with joint pain.

Pros Smart toothbrushes have built-in pressure sensors and timers for optimal oral health.
Cons Even though most smart toothbrushes are affordable and can fit most budgets, they are more costly than traditional products, take up more space, and require regular charging.
Customizations Speed settings allow you to accommodate your personal sensitivity needs. In addition, those with an integrated app allow you to optimize your brushing habits.
Product Considerations A wide range of products are available, at a variety of price points, sizes and weights. Choose the product that fits your budget and is most comfortable in your grip.
Installation None
Budget $
Also Benefits Those with a self-care disability, those with mobility issues.

Self-Care/Independent Living Difficulty

It’s estimated that 6.5 percent of Americans have an independent living disability, and 3.6 percent of Americans have a self-care disability. For those struggling with such disabilities challenges may range from an inability to dress oneself, to an inability to grocery shop, run errands, or take oneself the doctor. Of particular concern for seniors, self-care disabilities may be accompanied by cognitive, ambulatory, hearing, or vision disabilities, further necessitating the support for accommodations and devices that can enable one to live a more independent life, at home, for as long as possible.

Assistance Applications

assist-Mi is an assistance application that helps disabled individuals to get assistance in real-time by connecting service providers and caregivers with disabled individuals who may need transportation help at a moment’s notice. For individuals with a self-care disability, assist-Mi enables them to find a nearby caregiver who can assist with the types of activities they are unable to do on their own, such as traveling to work, going shopping, or running errands.

Pros Improves the daily lives of people with a self-care disability by connecting them with nearby caregivers. The app also provides a directory of accessible nearby service providers, such as retailers and facilities for convenient reference.
Cons The app works by connecting the disabled with nearby caregivers. If you live in a more rural area, your options for nearby caregivers may be limited. Similarly, depending on the exact time you need assistance, there may not be someone nearby available to assist.
Customizations Smart location-based technologies personalize the experience so that those in need are paired with nearby caregivers. In addition, a user can create a custom profile and save personal preferences.
Product Considerations assist-Mi primarily enables disabled individuals to obtain transportation assistance. If in-home care is the primary concern, such needs may be beyond the scope of the assist-Mi application.
Installation None
Budget $ The app is free from the iTunes® App Store and Google PlayTM Marketplace.
Also Benefits Those with mobility issues, the vision impaired.

smart fridge that creates a shopping list

Wi-Fi Enabled Refrigerators

While the most advanced refrigerators offer the average, able-bodied individual convenience, for those with self-care needs, they offer a much-needed health benefit. The most advanced models of Wi-Fi enabled refrigerators have built-in cameras that allow you to see what’s inside the refrigerator without opening the door. You can also leave notes and appointment reminders on the refrigerator’s front digital display—a convenience for those who may also suffer from memory loss.

Perhaps most impressive of all, smart refrigerators will keep track of your re-stock needs and allow you to send a grocery list directly to a participating grocery store (such as Whole Foods, Fresh Direct, or Shop Rite), for delivery right to your door. Such conveniences enable home-bound individuals to be able to remain well cared for in their own home.

Pros Thanks to the re-order and delivery functionality, home bound individuals don’t need to be reliant upon caregivers to help restock their food.
Cons Not every grocery store offers online ordering and delivery. Depending on where you live, the ability to re-order products may not be feasible.
Customizations For products with built-in on-screen apps, you can keep track of notes, calendar items, appointments, and grocery needs, helping you to personalize the product and it use.
Product Considerations Budget may be the biggest consideration when choosing a smart refrigerator, since product features and installation costs range greatly, even more so than installing standard appliances. In addition, some brands integrate with smart home hubs. If you need to integrate your refrigerator with your smart home hub, be sure to choose a compatible system.
Installation Assistance will be needed to bring the large refrigerator into the home. Depending on your technical aptitude, you may need assistance pairing it to your Wi-Fi and setting your preferences.
Budget $$$ While a variety of products are available with features that range in complexity, most costs range from $1300 to $6,000.
Also Benefits Those with mobility or cognitive disabilities, those with arthritis.

Additional Resources

For some, the addition of a few smart devices into the home could make all the difference needed to live independently. For others, the greater need is for a more integrated and robust use of the IoT to make a wider variety of home activities feasible. For still others, depending on their needs and the complexities of their disability, what is needed to keep them in the home where they belong may be a fully customized home environment.

Organizations do exist that are helping to build custom smart homes for the disabled, including veterans, seniors, and families with a special needs child. While a custom home requires the most significant funding considerations, there are organizations helping to make such projects affordable. If a fully customized smart home is what you need, explore the resources below:

TechHomes.com – Offers a state-by-state directory of smart home communities, builders, and resources.

RISE – Founded by actor Gary Sinese, RISE (Restoring Independence Supporting Empowerment), builds adaptive homes for disabled veterans.

Hive – Offers a series of interconnected smart devices that can be integrated with one another to create an end-to-end smart home living environment. Hive products can be retrofitted into existing homes, or installed into custom builds.

card motherhealth

Estrogen increases vision loss risk in rare genetic disease

Summary: A new study suggests blocking estrogen may help preserve eyesight in girls with NF1.

Source: WUSTL.

Girls with a rare genetic disorder caused by mutations in a gene known as Nf1 are much more likely to lose their vision than boys with mutations in the same gene. And now, researchers at WUSTL in St. Louis believe they know why: Female sex hormones activate immune cells that damage the nerves necessary for vision.

The study was carried out in mice to mimic a common brain tumor arising in a genetic condition called neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1). The findings, available online in The Journal of Experimental Medicine, suggest that blocking female sex hormones or suppressing the activation of specific immune cells in the brain could save the eyesight of children with NF1-associated brain tumors.

“The take-home message is that a child’s sex matters when it comes to this disease,” said David H. Gutmann, MD, PhD, the David O. Schnuck Family Professor of Neurology and the study’s senior author. “We’ve identified what leads to this difference in vision loss, and that suggests novel potential therapies to treat this serious medical problem in children. Understanding why boys and girls with mutations in the same gene have different outcomes presents unprecedented opportunities to fix the problem.”

NF1 causes children and adults to develop brain and nerve tumors. These tumors are typically benign — meaning they don’t spread to other parts of the body and lead to death – but they still can have serious consequences.

Nearly 20 percent of children with NF1 develop brain tumors that involve the optic pathway, affecting the nerves that carry vision-related signals from the eye to the brain. In some children, these tumors cause vision loss; however, it is not currently possible to predict who will experience vision decline and who will not.

Two years ago, Gutmann and colleagues were the first to report that girls with NF1 were five times more likely to lose their sight than boys, even though there were no clear differences in the size of the tumors between boys and girls.

To discover why girls are more likely to experience vision decline from their tumors, Gutmann, postdoctoral researcher Joseph A. Toonen, PhD, and colleagues studied mice with Nf1 gene mutations specifically engineered to develop tumors on the optic pathway. Both male and female mice developed tumors that were identical in size and growth rates; however, only the female mice exhibited significant nerve damage and vision loss.

The researchers found that the tumors contain a type of immune cell called microglia. Strikingly, female mice had three times more microglia within these tumors than male mice. When activated, microglia release a range of toxic compounds that can cause collateral damage to nearby nerve cells. When they are activated, they release those compounds and sometimes cause collateral damage to nearby cells. The researchers found that the microglia within the optic tumors from female mice were activated, and the neurons near the tumors were damaged.

To test whether sex hormones could account for these differences, the researchers removed the ovaries from female mice and the testes from male mice. The number of damaged and dying cells in the retina – a light-sensitive layer of nervous tissue in the eye — did not change in the castrated males. But in the females without ovaries, fewer cells in the retina died and the number of activated microglia within the tumors was also decreased. These findings suggest that female sex hormones may cause microglial activation and subsequent neuronal damage.

When researchers used a drug to block the action of the female sex hormone in female mice carrying the Nf1 mutation, they saw a drop in the number of activated microglia and a decrease in retinal damage and nerve cell death. Moreover, the researchers identified the specific nerve-damaging toxins produced by these activated microglia. Future therapies to attenuate vision loss in children with NF1-optic tumors might target these compounds.

Image shows retinal neurons.

Gutmann stressed that boys with NF1 also experience vision loss, just not as frequently as girls, and that male NF1 mice harbor some activated microglia within their tumors. He believes that the process of microglial activation and ensuing neuronal damage is the same in males and females, but that the presence of female sex hormones increases the microglial activation, leading to greater optic nerve damage and vision loss.

“This sex difference has turned out to be critical for us to begin to unravel the causes of the vision loss in NF1-optic tumors,” Gutmann said. “We would not have identified the key molecular signals that promote neuronal death without these sex differences. Moreover, these findings have implications beyond brain tumors and have led us to explore sex differences in other NF1 neurological problems, including autism, sleep and attention deficit.”

Since his team discovered the influence of sex on vision loss, Gutmann has begun to make changes to his clinical practice.

“We have been looking for ways to identify children at highest risk for vision loss, and now we think that one important factor is being a girl,” Gutmann said. “I haven’t relaxed my concern for the boys, but it’s certainly heightened my concern for the girls.”

ABOUT THIS NEUROSCIENCE RESEARCH ARTICLE

Funding: The study was funded by National Institutes of Health, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, NIH/National Cancer Institute.

Source: Judy Martin Finch – WUSTL
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Joseph A. Toonen.
Original Research: Abstract for “Estrogen activation of microglia underlies the sexually dimorphic differences in Nf1 optic glioma–induced retinal pathology” by Joseph A. Toonen, Anne C. Solga, Yu Ma, and David H. Gutmann in Journal of Experimental Medicine. Published online December 6 2016 doi:10.1084/jem.20160447

CITE THIS NEUROSCIENCENEWS.COM ARTICLE
WUSTL. “Estrogen Increases Vision Loss Risk in Rare Genetic Disease.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 13 December 2016.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/estrogen-vision-loss-5736/&gt;.

Abstract

Estrogen activation of microglia underlies the sexually dimorphic differences in Nf1 optic glioma–induced retinal pathology

Children with neurofibromatosis type 1 (NF1) develop low-grade brain tumors throughout the optic pathway. Nearly 50% of children with optic pathway gliomas (OPGs) experience visual impairment, and few regain their vision after chemotherapy. Recent studies have revealed that girls with optic nerve gliomas are five times more likely to lose vision and require treatment than boys. To determine the mechanism underlying this sexually dimorphic difference in clinical outcome, we leveraged Nf1 optic glioma (Nf1-OPG) mice. We demonstrate that female Nf1-OPG mice exhibit greater retinal ganglion cell (RGC) loss and only females have retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thinning, despite mice of both sexes harboring tumors of identical volumes and proliferation. Female gonadal sex hormones are responsible for this sexual dimorphism, as ovariectomy, but not castration, of Nf1-OPG mice normalizes RGC survival and RNFL thickness. In addition, female Nf1-OPG mice have threefold more microglia than their male counterparts, and minocycline inhibition of microglia corrects the retinal pathology. Moreover, pharmacologic inhibition of microglial estrogen receptor-β (ERβ) function corrects the retinal abnormalities in female Nf1-OPG mice. Collectively, these studies establish that female gonadal sex hormones underlie the sexual dimorphic differences in Nf1 optic glioma–induced retinal dysfunction by operating at the level of tumor-associated microglial activation.

“Estrogen activation of microglia underlies the sexually dimorphic differences in Nf1 optic glioma–induced retinal pathology” by Joseph A. Toonen, Anne C. Solga, Yu Ma, and David H. Gutmann in Journal of Experimental Medicine. Published online December 6 2016 doi:10.1084/jem.20160447

Video Game Helps Children With Poor Vision to See Better

Summary: Researchers report children with poor vision experience an improvement in their peripheral vision within hours of being exposed to child friendly action video games.

Source: University of Rochester.

Studies going back several years have shown that playing action video games (AVG) can help improve visual acuity. A new study by vision scientists at the University of Rochester and Vanderbilt University found that children with poor vision see vast improvement in their peripheral vision after only eight hours of training via kid-friendly video games. Most surprising to the scientists was the range of visual gains the children made, and that the gains were quickly acquired and stable when tested a year later.

“Children who have profound visual deficits often expend a disproportionate amount of effort trying to see straight ahead, and as a consequence they neglect their peripheral vision,” said Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at Rochester. “This is problematic because visual periphery—which plays a critical role in mobility and other key visual functions—is often less affected by visual impairments.”

“We know that action video games (AVG) can improve visual perception, so we isolated the AVG components that we thought would have the strongest effect on perception and devised a kid-friendly game that compels players to pay attention to the entire visual field, not just where their vision is most impaired,” said Tadin, who is also a professor in the Center for Visual Science. “As a result, we’ve seen up to 50 percent improvement in visual perception tasks.”

Successful AVG players distribute and switch their attention across a wide area, while at the same time they remain vigilant for unexpected moving targets to appear, all while ignoring irrelevant stimuli.

The researchers created a training game with these specific task characteristics while eliminating other components of AVGs, such as the demand for speeded hand-eye coordination, and any violent or other non-child-friendly material.

Game training

Twenty-four low-vision youths from the Tennessee and Oklahoma Schools for the Blind participated in the training experiment that appears in Scientific Reports. Pre-training screening showed that while most children had central visual acuity worse than the 20/200 legal blindness limit, they also underutilized their peripheral vision.

According to the study’s lead author, Jeffrey Nyquist, founder and CEO of NeuroTrainer, the students’ issues with the periphery were in part attentional.

Nyquist and the team hypothesized that training the students to pay more attention to their peripheral visual field could have quick results.

“We didn’t improve the kids’ hardware—these children have profound physical problems with their optics, muscles, and retina, and we can’t fix that,” said Nyquist. “But we could improve their software by training their brain to reallocate attentional resources to make better use of their periphery vision.”

Image shows a child's eye.

The students were divided into 3 groups: a control group that played a Tetris-like game; a group that played a kid-friendly commercially-available AVG, Ratchet & Clank; and a group that used the training game devised by the researchers. All games were played on a large projection screen to better involve visual periphery.

The game the researchers developed has a dual-task component. Students tracked multiple moving objects simultaneously while being on the lookout for another object that briefly appears and requires a response from the player.

“The goal is to pay attention to a number of objects over a large area, and to be prepared to react to unexpected events in the even further periphery,” explained Tadin. “It forces the low-vision students to expand their visual field—to shift their attention to the neglected areas of the visual field.”

After a total of eight hours of training, groups who trained with the commercially-available AVG and the custom dual-task game showed significant visual improvements.

The tests in the video are most effective when viewed from a close distance on a large monitor, so they fill the visual field as much as possible.

Improvements were seen in a range of visual tasks. The students were able to better perceive moving objects (motion perception) in the far periphery, they were able to better attend to visual crowding, such as identifying a specific letter within a field of other letters, and they were much faster at finding objects in cluttered scenes (visual search), like finding a stapler on a messy desk.

Range and stability of visual improvements

We were surprised by the range of improvements, and we were even more surprised when we tested a few of the students a year later and found that the gains they made were stable,” said Nyquist. “Within just a few hours of training, they were able to expand their usable visual field and visual search ability.”

Nyquist notes that when the researchers began their work with the students, it was to assess how they maneuver around their environments. “But we quickly went from assessing to thinking ‘maybe we have something that can train them and improve their real-life abilities,’” he said. “When we realized that the students achieved up to 50 percent improvement in visual tasks, we were blown away.”

ABOUT THIS PSYCHOLOGY RESEARCH ARTICLE

Funding: The research was supported by the National Eye Institute.

Note: Nyquist has since founded a for-profit company, NeuroTrainer, which utilizes the dual-task training component used in this research and has applied it to immersive virtual reality training games for elite athletes.

Source: Monique Patenaude – University of Rochester
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is adapted from the University of Rochester press release.
Video Source:Original Research: Full open access research for “Perceptual training yields rapid improvements in visually impaired youth” by Jeffrey B. Nyquist, Joseph S. Lappin, Ruyuan Zhang and Duje Tadin in Scientific Reports. Published online November 30 2016 doi:10.1038/srep37431

CITE THIS NEUROSCIENCENEWS.COM ARTICLE
University of Rochester. “Video Game Helps Children With Poor Vision to See Better.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 30 November 2016.
<http://neurosciencenews.com/video-game-vision-5632/&gt;.

Abstract

Perceptual training yields rapid improvements in visually impaired youth

Visual function demands coordinated responses to information over a wide field of view, involving both central and peripheral vision. Visually impaired individuals often seem to underutilize peripheral vision, even in absence of obvious peripheral deficits. Motivated by perceptual training studies with typically sighted adults, we examined the effectiveness of perceptual training in improving peripheral perception of visually impaired youth. Here, we evaluated the effectiveness of three training regimens: (1) an action video game, (2) a psychophysical task that combined attentional tracking with a spatially and temporally unpredictable motion discrimination task, and (3) a control video game. Training with both the action video game and modified attentional tracking yielded improvements in visual performance. Training effects were generally larger in the far periphery and appear to be stable 12 months after training. These results indicate that peripheral perception might be under-utilized by visually impaired youth and that this underutilization can be improved with only ~8 hours of perceptual training. Moreover, the similarity of improvements following attentional tracking and action video-game training suggest that well-documented effects of action video-game training might be due to the sustained deployment of attention to multiple dynamic targets while concurrently requiring rapid attending and perception of unpredictable events.

“Perceptual training yields rapid improvements in visually impaired youth” by Jeffrey B. Nyquist, Joseph S. Lappin, Ruyuan Zhang and Duje Tadin in Scientific Reports. Published online November 30 2016 doi:10.1038/srep37431

Restore your vision naturally y Dr. Mercola

yellow

Contrary to popular belief, deteriorating vision is primarily a side effect of modern lifestyle. Aging does not automatically mean you will lose your eyesight. The key is to properly nourish your eyes throughout the years, and avoid chronic eye strain.
For example, I noticed my near vision started to deteriorate around 20 years ago, but after applying these principles, at 61, I don’t wear reading glasses unless I need to see small print and there is very little light.

  • Staring at a computer screen for hours on end is a common cause of blurred vision, short-sightedness, and other eye problems.
  • Spending time outdoors is helpful, and research suggests that children playing outdoors for at least 40 minutes a day have a reduced risk of short-sightedness.
  • Your diet may be paramount though. Chronic vitamin A deficiency, for example, can lead to total blindness. Other nutrient insufficiencies significantly contribute to the development of macular degeneration.
  • Macular Degeneration Can Be Slowed or Prevented

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness among the elderly, followed by cataracts. There are two forms of macular degeneration:3 dry and wet.

Dry macular degeneration is the milder version that causes few symptoms, but it can degenerate into the wet form, in which blood vessels start growing in the back of your eye, causing your vision to blur.

A hallmark of wet AMD is loss of vision in the center of your field of vision. A healthy diet can likely prevent AMD in the first place, but supplements have also been shown to help slow down or stop the progression from the dry to the more advanced wet form.
“The federally funded Age-Related Eye Disease Study… found that people at high risk for advanced age-related macular degeneration could cut that risk by about 25 percent by taking a supplement that included:
500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 I.Us of vitamin E, 10 milligrams of lutein, 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin, 80 milligrams of zinc, and 2 milligrams of copper.”

Antioxidant-Rich Diet Protects Your Vision

Macular degeneration and cataracts are largely driven by free radical damage, and may in many cases be largely preventable by eating foods rich in antioxidants, such as:

Anthocyanins, found in blueberries, bilberries, and black currants
Lutein and zeaxanthin,5 found in green leafy vegetables and orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.
Research shows those who consume the highest levels of lutein and zeaxanthin have a 40 percent lower risk of advanced wet macular degeneration compared to those who eat the least6

High quality animal-based omega-3 fats like those found in krill oil and wild-caught Alaskan salmon
Bioflavonoids found in tea, cherries, and citrus fruits
Vitamin D, found to some extent in various foods such as meats, but primarily created in response to direct sun exposure on bare skin. Vitamin D is particularly important for those with genetic risk factors for AMD.
Recent research7,8,9 found that middle-aged women who have a high-risk genotype and are vitamin D deficient are 6.7 times more likely to develop AMD than those without this genetic risk factor who also have sufficient vitamin D.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin — Two Key Nutrients for Your Eyes

Lutein and zeaxanthin are two key nutrients for eye health,10 as both of them are found in high concentrations in your macula,11 the small central part of your retina responsible for detailed central vision.

Lutein is also found in your macular pigment – known for helping to protect your central vision, and aid in blue light absorption — and zeaxanthin is found in your retina.

Though there’s no recommended daily intake for lutein and zeaxanthin, studies have found protective benefits at a dosage of 10 mg of lutein per day, and 2 mg per day of zeaxanthin.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are often found together in foods, although zeaxanthin is far scarcer than lutein. They’re primarily found in green leafy vegetables, with kale and spinach topping the list of lutein-rich foods.

Carrots, squash, and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables also contain high amounts. In fact, the word lutein comes from the Latin word “luteus,” which means “yellow.” If you remember this, it may help you pick out vegetables likely to contain higher amounts of these two nutrients.

According to a 1998 study in the British Journal of Ophthalmology,12 orange pepper had the highest amount of zeaxanthin of the 33 fruits and vegetables tested.

Egg yolk from organically-raised, free-range pastured eggs is another source of both lutein and zeaxanthin that is well absorbed by your body. Interestingly, research13,14 shows that adding a couple of eggs to your salad can increase the carotenoid absorption you get from the whole meal as much as nine-fold.

Astaxanthin, a Powerful Promoter of Eye Health

Astaxanthin is a highly effective antioxidant produced by the microalgae Haematococcus pluvialis. When the water supply dries up, this microalgae produces astaxanthin to protect itself from ultraviolet radiation. There are only two main sources of astaxanthin: the microalgae that produce it, and the sea creatures that consume the algae, such as salmon, shellfish, and krill.

Compelling evidence suggests astaxanthin may be among the most important nutrients for the prevention of blindness. As noted by Valensa:15 “[A]ntioxidants which can cross the blood brain/eye barrier would be expected to provide enhanced protection of the retina particularly if the antioxidant can reach the central retinal macula.”

Dr. Mark Tso,16 who works at the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University, was the head of clinic when I worked at the University of Illinois Eyebank in the1970s. He has demonstrated that astaxanthin easily crosses the eye barrier, and exerts its effects with more potency than any of the other carotenoids — including lutein and zeaxanthin — without any adverse reactions.

Other researchers17,18 have confirmed Dr. Tso’s findings, and studies have demonstrated that astaxanthin offers potent protection against a number of eye-related problems, including:

• Cataracts
• Age-related macular degeneration
• Cystoid macular edema
• Inflammatory eye diseases (i.e., retinitis, iritis, keratitis, and scleritis)
• Diabetic retinopathy
• Glaucoma
• Retinal arterial occlusion
• Venous occlusion
Astaxanthin also helps maintain appropriate eye pressure levels that are already within the normal range, and supports your eyes’ energy levels and visual acuity. Depending on your individual situation, you may want to take an astaxanthin supplement. I recommend starting with 4 mg per day. Krill oil also contains high quality animal-based omega-3 fat in combination with naturally-occurring astaxanthin, albeit at lower levels than what you’ll get from an astaxanthin supplement.

Black Currants and Bilberries, Two Powerful Berries for Eye Health

Dark blue or purplish, almost black-colored berries like black currants and bilberries contain high amounts of the antioxidant anthocyanins. Black currants contain some of the highest levels. They’re also rich in essential fatty acids, lending added support to its anti-inflammatory properties. For medicinal purposes, many opt for using black currant seed oil, but eating the whole food is always an option, especially when they’re in season.

Bilberry,19,20 a close relative of the blueberry, also contains high amounts of anthocyanins, just like the black currant. Research suggests the bilberry may be particularly useful for inhibiting or reversing macular degeneration. A 2005 study in the journal Advances in Gerontology21 found that rats with early senile cataract and macular degeneration who received 20 mg of bilberry extract per kilo of body weight suffered no impairment of their lens and retina, while 70 percent of the control group suffered degeneration over the three month long study.

“The results suggest that… long-term supplementation with bilberry extract is effective in prevention of macular degeneration and cataract.”

As for dosage, Total Health Magazine22 recently noted that “positive results in trials required the ingestion of 50 mg or more per day of anthocyanins. A prudent level of intake would be on the order of 90 or 100 mg of the anthocyanins per day.” Similar dosage suggestions are given by the editors of PureHealthMD,23 who note that:

“When looking for a bilberry supplement for the eye, choose one that also includes 10 to 20 mg lutein and 1 to 2 mg zeaxanthin. Patients should target 80 to 160 mg daily. Those seeking prevention of eye disease, or just protection of the cells, can target 40 to 80 mg daily in combination with other antioxidant vitamins or in fruit combinations, such as blueberry/bilberry/raspberry.”

The Bates Method May Help You See More Clearly
While it’s easy to assume that once your vision has begun deteriorating there’s no going back, this assumption may not be entirely true. According to Greg Marsh, a certified natural vision coach and the creator of the CD program Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally, clear vision is achievable, even if you’re already wearing strong corrective lenses.

The method Greg teaches is known as the Bates Method, conceived by Dr. William H. Bates over 100 years ago. A board-certified ophthalmologist at the top of his field, Dr. Bates helped many people regain their vision with his technique. In fact, it was so effective that optometrists lobbied the local politicians to ban it! Unfortunately, they succeeded, and the Bates Method ceased to be used.

The method is based on a rather simple premise. When you strain your eyes, such as when you squint, this action squeezes your eyeballs, contorting them. This makes your vision blurry, as it alters where the field of vision “lands” on your retina. By identifying the source of the stress and strain, you can learn to let it go, relax, and thereby getting your vision back.

Basically, your vision is not compromised because of weak eye muscles. They’re strong enough. But, they’re too tensed to work properly, so you have to learn to relax them. Unfortunately, when you wear glasses, you’re actually retraining your eyes to strain in order to see all day long. So, ideally, you’ll want to remove your glasses whenever you can safely do so. Also make sure you have appropriate lighting, especially when reading.

Two Sample Bates Method Techniques

A technique called the Bates Long Swing can help your eyes relax by relaxing your body. Begin by simply swaying your body back and forth. The simple act of languidly moving your body, even just a little bit, has a very soothing effect on your brain and thought patterns, and that alone can sometimes help you feel more relaxed during stressful situations.

Your eyes also respond. Instead of being locked in a stare, like a deer in headlights, they can begin to relax and move naturally again. You can do the Long Swing just about anywhere, anytime, provided you’re standing up. One of the most famous Bates Method techniques is palming:

Start by looking around and noticing the level of clarity of your vision at present.
Place the center of your palms over your eyes. Relax your shoulders. You may want to lean forward onto a table or a stack of pillows, to facilitate relaxation. Relax like this for at least two minutes, focusing on relaxing your eyes, and sending love to your eyes through your palms. Feel free to engage your imagination here too, by imagining your eyes resuming their natural round shape.
After about two minutes, remove your hands, open your eyes, and notice whether anything looks clearer. Usually, it will.
To learn more about this method, listen to my interview with Greg Marsh. You can also find a lot of information about the Bates Method on the web. Greg’s program, Reclaim Your Eyesight Naturally, consists of six CDs and a 62-page guidebook that helps tie everything together. Just keep in mind that if you are looking for a quick fix, the Bates Method is probably not for you.

Computer Screens Are a Common Cause of Eye Strain

Many people these days spend a large portion of their days staring at computer screens of varying sizes, and this is a major source of eye strain and fatigue. A recent Epoch Times article24 offers a number of common-sense suggestions for minimizing computer-related eye strain, and All About Vision25 also lists helpful ways to protect your eyes when working in front of a screen. Some of these suggestions include the following:

Prevent screen glare by installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor, or a computer hood if you have large open windows causing glare on your screen. Darker colored walls with a matte finish are also preferable to bright white walls
Optimize your lighting by making sure your screen is the brightest thing in the room. According to All About Vision, “when you use a computer your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices”
Sit at least an arm’s length away from your computer screen, and make sure the screen is positioned just below eye level
Adjust the color temperature, brightness, text size, and contrast on your screen. If a website with white background glows like a light source, it’s too bright. Blue light is also associated with more eye strain than orange and red wavelengths, so reducing the color temperature (the amount of blue light) of your display may be helpful
Practice your distance vision. Every 20 minutes or so, take a break from the screen to look at something further away from you, such as across the street if you’re by a window
Other Natural Strategies That Help Protect Your Vision

In my opinion, there are natural, common-sense strategies you can employ to help protect your healthy vision, starting with your diet. As discussed above, certain foods are more or less necessary for optimal vision, and can go a long way toward protecting your eyesight throughout life. Besides the suggestions detailed above, here are a few other lifestyle strategies that can help optimize your eye health.

  1. Quit smoking, if you currently do. Smoking ramps up free radical production throughout your body, and puts you at risk for a number of conditions rooted in chronic inflammation, including poor vision.
  2. Care for your cardiovascular system by getting regular exercise. High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow. A regular, effective exercise program consisting of aerobics, Peak Fitness exercises, core building, and strength training, can go a long way toward reducing your blood pressure. It’s also critical for optimizing your insulin and leptin levels.
  3. Avoid processed foods and added sugars, particularly fructose.26 This is another primary way to maintain optimal blood pressure. Consuming 74 grams or more per day of fructose (equal to 2.5 sugary drinks) increases your risk of having blood pressure levels of 160/100 mmHg by 77 percent.
  4. Normalize your blood sugar. Excessive sugar in your blood can pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus. It can also damage the blood vessels in your retina, thereby obstructing blood flow. To keep your blood sugar in a healthy range, follow my comprehensive nutrition guidelines, exercise, and avoid processed foods and excess sugar, especially fructose.
  5. Avoid trans fats. A diet high in trans fat appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken, and doughnuts, cookies, pastries, and crackers.
  6. Avoid aspartame. Vision problems are one of the many potential acute symptoms of aspartame poisoning.