My visit to the optometrist turned out to be an eye-opener

By John Toth / Editor and Publisher

I am a firm believer of preventive medicine. It is a lot cheaper than ignoring a problem for a long time and then trying to handle it. The goal is to stay healthy longer.

My parents died at a young age because they did not track their numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar levels and all the other numbers revealed by blood tests. My mother also smoked all her life, and my father smoked and drank heavily. Neither of them had any idea of how to keep track of calories or what foods were good or bad for you.

I have outlived both of them by three years now. The problem is that I don’t know what would have happened to them had they lived longer. Would they have started losing their hearing or eyesight?

ould they have developed arthritis? Would they have gone senile?

Some members of my extended family have lived a long life, but the best examples of what I may be encountering later on in life are gone.

I have been keeping track of all my vitals, and everything is in order, except for my cholesterol, which was increasing over the years, no matter how much I exercised or what I ate. It’s down to normal now with the help of medicine, exercise and eating right.

I had colon polyps removed before they turned cancerous. I can thank my wife Sharon and my general practitioner for pushing me into getting a colonoscopy.

I have written about that in previous columns and hope that all of you 50 and over have already gotten one. It may save your life, like it saved mine.

“When was the last time we had an eye exam?” I asked Sharon. It seemed to be more than a year ago.
We called our optometrist. She is young, knowledgeable and has a very good attitude. We talk about our kids. Hers are still little. Ours are grown and living their own lives. It takes a while to get through the examination.

She has been taking photographs of my eyes and had warned me that the right eye seems to have some early signs of macular degeneration. Each year she takes another photo and compares it to the previous ones.

Macular degeneration can lead to near-blindness, but there are ways to slow its progress naturally by reducing stress, eating right and taking vitamins. For people who have early AMD in both eyes, about 14 percent will develop late AMD in at least one eye after 10 years.

That’s not good news. I can’t put out a paper if I can’t see.

“I just need 10 more years of good vision,” I told her. I really don’t know how many years I need, but 10 seems like a good number. “Do you think I can last that long?”

She dilated my pupils, looked into them with some fancy equipment, took another set of photos, and then I went back to the waiting room, where Sharon and I engaged the other patients there in an interesting conversation ranging from the cold weather, to current events, to the Vietnam War. One of the men waiting fought in it and is now suffering from the effects of Agent Orange.

We exchanged some war stories - his personal experience and mine from what my son, Bobby, told me about his encounters in Afghanistan. Everybody in the waiting room joined in.

Then it was time to get the word on what is going on with my right eye.

We looked at the photos together. The doctor was all smiles. The AMD has not progressed. “Keep eating right and take these vitamins,” she said as she handed me a handful of samples.

“So, I’m O.K. for the next 10 years?” I asked.

“Or the next 20. Everything looks good. We’ll look at it again next year.”

Aced it.

Take good care of yourself, dear reader. Your life is precious, and your continued health will allow you to enjoy your golden years for a very long time.

And all you younger readers, if you take good care of your body now, it will take good care of you later. I have seen it with my very own eyes. (I couldn’t resist.)