FOR YOUR HEALTH: Ways to Treat Chronic Back Pain Without Surgery

Featured Expert:
Stephanie Pham Van, M.D.

Back pain is considered chronic if it lasts three months or longer. It can come and go, often bringing temporary relief followed by frustration. Dealing with chronic back pain can be especially trying if you don’t know the cause.

Back pain rehabilitation specialist Stephanie Van, M.D., offers insights into common chronic back pain causes and nonsurgical treatment options — and she advises not to give up hope.

Common Causes of Chronic Back Pain

Chronic back pain is usually age-related, but it can also result from an injury. The most common causes include:

  • Arthritis of the spine — the gradual thinning of the cartilage inside the spine
  • Spinal stenosis — narrowing of the spinal canal that may lead to nerve pain
  • Disk problems, such as a herniated or bulging disk
  • Myofascial pain syndrome — muscle pain and tenderness without clear cause

In some cases, it is difficult to pinpoint the cause of chronic back pain.

“If your doctor has explored all diagnostic and treatment options they are comfortable with, consider seeking a second opinion from a back pain specialist,” Van recommends.

It is important to understand the source of your pain as much as possible, and to consider every available, reasonable option. People with back pain should not feel rushed into settling for an invasive, irreversible surgical procedure. Surgery can be helpful for many people, but it is usually considered a last resort after more conservative options have been exhausted. Surgery can correct structural abnormalities contributing to back pain, but it does not guarantee pain relief, and it may even worsen the pain, Van warns. If the source of the pain is not known or can’t be treated, the best strategy is to collaborate with your doctor on a pain management plan that reduces the severity and frequency of flare-ups and focuses on goals for function and quality of life.

Exercise is the foundation of chronic back pain treatment. It’s one of the first treatments you should try, under the guidance of your physician and spine physical therapist.

Physical therapy for chronic back pain may include:

  • Core strengthening
  • Stretching and flexibility exercises
  • Retraining posture
  • Testing the limits of pain tolerance
  • Aerobic exercises at a comfortable pace
  • Diet Change
  • Some diets are highly inflammatory, especially those high in trans fats, refined sugars and processed foods.

Lifestyle Modifications

There are many ways to adapt and adjust your behavior and activity that can significantly improve chronic back pain before even considering medications or procedures.
Injection-based Treatments

Trigger point injections, epidural steroid injections, nerve blocks, nerve ablations and other types of injection-based procedures are available for chronic back pain.

Alternative Treatments

Acupuncture, massage, biofeedback therapy, laser therapy, electrical nerve stimulation and other nonsurgical spine treatments can make a difference for chronic back pain. Pharmacologic Treatments

All kinds of medicines (topical, oral, injectable) are used to help manage chronic back pain, including anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxants, nerve pain medications and even antidepressants. However, any medication can have unwanted side effects. Work with your doctor to explore medication strategies that directly address the cause of your pain (if it is known).

When is surgery a good idea for back pain?

If you suddenly start experiencing any of the following “red flag” symptoms, it might be time for surgery, if the symptoms found to be related to your spine condition:

  • New or worsening bowel/bladder issues (incontinence, groin numbness)
  • Weakness in limbs
  • Gait and balance problems
  • Evidence of increased (brisk) reflexes

Surgery can also be an option for chronic back pain if a cause is confirmed by imaging and if other treatments have not helped.

“Surgery is the most invasive, high risk strategy for chronic back pain,” Van says. “It is irreversible, and it does not guarantee complete relief of back pain.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: What can adults do to maintain good oral health?

You can keep your teeth for your lifetime. Here are some things you can do to maintain a healthy mouth and strong teeth.

Drink fluoridated water and brush with fluoride toothpaste.

Practice good oral hygiene. Brush teeth thoroughly twice a day and floss daily between the teeth to remove dental plaque.

Visit your dentist at least once a year, even if you have no natural teeth or have dentures.

Do not use any tobacco products. If you smoke, quit.

Limit alcoholic drinks.

If you have diabetes, work to maintain control of the disease. This will decrease risk for other complications, including gum disease. Treating gum disease may help lower your blood sugar level.

If your medication causes dry mouth, ask your doctor for a different medication that may not cause this condition. If dry mouth cannot be avoided, drink plenty of water, chew sugarless gum, and avoid tobacco products and alcohol.

See your doctor or a dentist if you have sudden changes in taste and smell.

When acting as a caregiver, help older individuals brush and floss their teeth if they are not able to perform these activities independently.

How to Clean Your Teeth and Gums

There is a right way to brush and floss your teeth.

Gently brush your teeth on all sides with a soft-bristle brush and fluoride toothpaste. Replace your toothbrush every three to four months.

Use small circular motions and short back-and-forth strokes.

Brush carefully and gently along your gum line.

Lightly brush your tongue or use a tongue scraper to help keep your mouth clean.

Clean between your teeth with dental floss, prethreaded flossers, a water flosser, or a similar product. This removes plaque and leftover food that a toothbrush can’t reach.

Rinse after you floss.

People with arthritis or other conditions that limit hand motion may find it hard to hold and use a toothbrush. Some helpful tips are:

Use an electric or battery-operated toothbrush.

Buy a toothbrush with a larger handle.

Attach the toothbrush handle to your hand with a wide elastic band.

See your dentist if brushing or flossing causes your gums to bleed or hurts your mouth. If you have trouble flossing, a floss holder may help. Ask your dentist to show you the right way to floss.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Top 5 things you can do for your family’s eye health

From learning in the classroom to playing in the schoolyard and at home, vision is vital to how kids grow and develop – so vital in fact, that up to 80 percent of early learning is visual. Whether you’re two or 102, vision plays a key part in quality of life.

Dr. Boateng Wiafe, technical advisor and author of The healthy eyes activity book: A health teaching book for primary schools, says there are five things everyone should do to take care of their eye health.

1. Book that annual eye exam – In Canada, some provinces offer free eye exams to children and seniors as part of provincial health care. Just like regular visits to the dentist, annual eye exams should be part of your family’s self-care routine.

2. Know the signs – Identifying a vision problem early is a critical first step. If you or a family member squints, tilts their head, closes or covers one eye, has difficulty concentrating or needs to sit close to the TV, these are all signs that a vision problem could be at play.

3. Limit screen time – A 2021 study found that extended screen time is associated with a 30 per cent higher risk of myopia (nearsightedness) and therefore needing prescription eyeglasses. When combined with excessive computer use, the risk more than doubles, reaching approximately 80 per cent.

What’s a person to do? Remember the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look at an object approximately 20 feet (six metres) away, for 20 seconds. Pro tip: it works for both kids and adults!

4. Get outside – Getting outside to walk, play or move is a great way to take a break from screens – not to mention get some fresh air and vitamin D. According to the Canadian Association of Optometrists, increased time outdoors protects people from the onset of myopia, or nearsightedness.

5. Protect your eyes – Besides making you très cool, the right pair of sunglasses protects eyes from ultraviolet rays from the sun. Also remember to stay safe and avoid eye injuries by using protective eye gear when you’re doing household chores and ensuring your kids have the right eye protection for sports.

For adults, vision loss and lack of adequate eye health care can impact a person’s ability to work, care for their family and build social connections.

Learn more about what you can do to help make eye health services accessible for all.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Tips for Staying Healthy

Senior Couple in the Gym

A healthy lifestyle can help you thrive throughout your life. Making healthy choices isn’t always easy, however. It can be hard to find the time and energy to exercise regularly or prepare healthy meals. However, your efforts will pay off in many ways, and for the rest of your life.

Steps you can take:

Be physically active for 30 minutes most days of the week. Break this up into three 10-minute sessions when pressed for time. Healthy movement may include walking, sports, dancing, yoga, running or other activities you enjoy.

Eat a well-balanced, low-fat diet with lots of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Choose a diet that’s low in saturated fat and cholesterol, and moderate in sugar, salt and total fat.

Avoid injury by wearing seatbelts and bike helmets, using smoke and carbon monoxide detectors in the home, and using street smarts when walking alone. If you own a gun, recognize the dangers of having a gun in your home. Use safety precautions at all times.

Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Ask your health care provider for help. UCSF’s Tobacco Education Center offers smoking cessation and relapse prevention classes as well as doctor consultations for smokers trying to quit.

Drink in moderation if you drink alcohol. Never drink before or while driving, or when pregnant.

Ask someone you trust for help if you think you might be addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Brush your teeth after meals with a soft or medium bristled toothbrush. Also brush after drinking and before going to bed. Use dental floss daily.

Stay out of the sun, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m., when the sun’s harmful rays are strongest. You are not protected if it is cloudy or if you are in the water – harmful rays pass through both. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen that guards against both UVA and UVB rays, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Select sunglasses that block 99 to 100 percent of the sun’s rays.

Maintaining a Healthy Outlook

Women today have busy, demanding lives. You may feel pulled in different directions and experience stress from dealing with work, family and other matters, leaving little time for yourself.

Steps you can take:

Stay in touch with family and friends.

Be involved in your community.

Maintain a positive attitude and do things that make you happy.

Keep your curiosity alive. Lifelong learning is beneficial to your health.

Healthy intimacy takes all forms but is always free of coercion.

Learn to recognize and manage stress in your life. Signs of stress include trouble sleeping, frequent headaches and stomach problems; being angry a lot; and turning to food, drugs and alcohol to relieve stress.

Good ways to deal with stress include regular exercise, healthy eating habits and relaxation exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation. Talking to trusted family members and friends can help a lot. Some women find that interacting with their faith community is helpful in times of stress.

Get enough sleep and rest. Adults need around eight hours of sleep a night.

Talk to your health care provider if you feel depressed for more than a few days; depression is a treatable illness. Signs of depression include feeling empty and sad, crying a lot, loss of interest in life, and thoughts of death or suicide. If you or someone you know has thoughts of suicide, get help right away. Call 911, a local crisis center or (800) SUICIDE.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Why do some people become overweight?

Many factors, including consuming more calories than you need from food and beverages, lack of sleep, and low levels of physical activity, may play a part in gaining excess weight. Here are some factors that may influence weight and overall health.

The world around you. Your home, community, and workplace all may affect how you make daily lifestyle choices. Food and beverages high in fat, added sugar, and calories are easy to find and sometimes hard to avoid. And they often cost less than healthier choices like fruits and vegetables. On top of that, smartphones and other devices may make it easy for you to be less active in your daily routine.

Families. Overweight and obesity tend to run in families, suggesting that genes may play a role in weight gain. Families also share food preferences and habits that may affect how much, when, and what we eat and drink.

Medicines. Some medicines, such as steroids, and some drugs for depression , and other chronic health problems, may lead to weight gain. Ask your health care professional or pharmacist about whether weight gain is a possible side effect of medicines you are taking and if there are other medicines that can help your health without gaining weight.

Emotions. Sometimes people snack, eat, or drink more when they feel bored, sad, angry, happy, or stressed – even when they are not hungry.

Lack of sleep. In general, people who get too little sleep tend to weigh more than those who get enough sleep. There are several possible explanations. Sleep-deprived people may be too tired to exercise. They may take in more calories simply because they are awake longer and have more opportunities to eat. Lack of sleep may also disrupt the balance of hormones that control appetite.

Consuming Healthy Food and Beverages

Being aware of food portion size, the kinds of foods and beverages you consume, and how often you have them may be a step to help you make healthier food choices.

What kinds of foods and drinks should I consume?

Consume more nutrient-rich foods. Nutrients – like vitamins minerals and dietary fiber – nourish our bodies by giving them what they need to be healthy. Adults are encouraged to consume some of the following foods and beverages that are rich in nutrients: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, like oatmeal, whole-grain bread, and brown rice, seafood, lean meats, poultry, and eggs
beans, peas, unsalted nuts, and seeds, sliced vegetables or baby carrots with hummus, fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products.

If you’re sensitive to milk and milk products, try substituting, nondairy soy, almond, rice, or other drinks with added vitamin D and calcium, lactose-reduced fat-free or low-fat milk, dark leafy vegetables like collard greens or kale.

Fruit, colorful veggies, beans, fish, and low-fat dairy products are rich sources of nutrients that give our bodies what they need to be healthy.

Consume less of these foods and beverages.

Some foods and beverages have many calories but few of the essential nutrients your body needs. Added sugars and solid fats pack a lot of calories into food and beverages but provide a limited amount of healthy nutrients. Salt does not contain calories, but it tends to be in high-calorie foods. Adults should aim to limit foods and drinks such as sugar-sweetened drinks and foods, foods with solid fats like butter, margarine, lard, and shortening, white bread, rice, and pasta that are made from refined grains, foods with added salt (sodium), whole milk.

Easy snack ideas. Instead of sugary, fatty snacks, try fat-free or low-fat milk or yogurt, fresh or canned fruit, without added sugars

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Six Heart-Healthy Foods for Seniors

The National Institute on Aging reports that individuals who are 65 or older are more likely than younger people to have cardiovascular-related issues like heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, heart attacks, or heart failure.

The American Heart Association states that eating a heart-healthy diet is one of the best ways (along with exercise) to help reduce the risk of heart disease and promote heart health. However, although you may know the right foods to eat, it’s often hard to change long term eating habits.

Fortunately, there are many healthy and tasty foods that can be easily worked into your diet. We’ve singled out six healthy foods for older adults that can help reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, as well as highlighted a few ways you can easily incorporate them into your daily diet for a healthier heart.


Eat More of These

1. Leafy green vegetables

Leafy green vegetables like chard, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, and bok choy are packed with vitamins and minerals and are low in calories. Get more high-fiber greens in your diet by tossing a handful into your morning smoothie, adding a side salad to a sandwich at lunch, sautéeing for a side dish, or adding into homemade soups.

Recipe to try: Garden-Fresh Rainbow Chard

2. Fat-free or low-fat dairy products

The vitamin D and calcium found in dairy products help improve mood, strengthen bones, and preserve muscle strength. An easy way to add more dairy is to use Greek yogurt in place of mayonnaise or cream in dishes.

Recipe to try: Chicken Broccoli Rice Casserole

3. Fresh fruits (especially berries)

Many fresh fruits are filled with vitamins and fiber. Berries, in particular, are chock-full of heart-healthy antioxidants, calcium, potassium, magnesium and fiber. Blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and blackberries are all little bursts of superfood that are low in sugar and calories. Add a handful to salads, throw them in smoothies, or use them to create a heart-healthy dessert.

Recipe to try: Warm Berry Crisp

4. Whole grains

Three daily servings of whole grains like oats, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, and popcorn can keep your heart healthy and your cholesterol managed. It’s easy to replace refined grain options (like bread) with whole grain options without sacrificing taste. Whole grain side dishes are a great way to jazz up your mealtime routine.

Recipe to try: Cherry-Quinoa Salad

5. Healthy fats

Omega-3s are a type of good fat that can help keep arteries from hardening, lower triglycerides, and help regulate heartbeat. They’re also really good for your skin. Fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines are full of omega-3s, making them an excellent protein option. Healthy fats can also be found in nuts like almonds and walnuts and fruits like avocados. Swapping canola oil for olive oil whenever possible is a great way to get more healthy fat in your diet.

Recipe to try: Green Bean Salad With Roasted Almonds and Feta

6. Nuts and seeds

We already mentioned that almonds and walnuts have value for their healthy fats. They’re also loaded with protein and fiber, making them the perfect snack, salad topping, or ingredient for just about anything. They’ll help keep you fuller longer, which means you’ll eat less while remaining satisfied. Branch out and choose options like cashews, Macadamia nuts, Brazil nuts, pistachios, hazelnuts, and even coconuts to tantalize your palate while getting a healthy-heart boost.

Recipe to try: Sweet and Spicy Heart-Healthy Walnuts


Other Heart-Healthy Tips

While eating the right types of food will help you age well, feel good and stay healthy, there are other easy ways to keep your heart in tip-top shape, including:

  • Stay physically active – shoot for approximately 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week. Even a brisk walk around the neighborhood after dinner will improve cardiovascular health, reduce stress, and boost mood. Talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise routine.
  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Limit foods such as saturated fats, high-fat foods, fried foods, refined sugars, and alcohol
  • If you smoke, quit smoking
  • Manage any medical conditions by regularly visiting your doctor and staying on top of prescribed medication

FOR YOUR HEALTH: Smart Lighting Solutions to Combat Eye Strain from Screen Time

The ScreenBar Halo offers tech-driven eye comfort for computer users by supplying real-time auto-dimming light to soothe digital eye strain.

(NAPSI)—Research shows that remote workers spend over half of their day—13 hours on average—looking at screens. This much time spent looking at a computer can produce digital eye strain, also known as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).

How To Help Your Eyes

It’s estimated that digital eye strain affects 60 million people worldwide, and over 70 percent of computer users. Resulting symptoms include headaches, blurry vision, neck and eye pain, double vision, delay in shifting focus, and more.

Sound familiar? If you’re experiencing digital eye strain from spending countless hours in front of a screen, you will be glad to know, BenQ’s tech-driven smart lights can offer a solution.
Digital eye strain is often caused by differences in light – screen glare, light reflection, screen brightness and contrast are all contributing factors. Renowned for its pioneering lighting solutions – including the world’s first monitor light bar, the ScreenBar—the company boasts a full line of smart lights that help reduce digital eye strain. Designed based on extensive research by a team of optical professionals and backed by EU IEC/IR 62778 and IEC/EN 62471 dual certifications for blue light hazards, these smart lights bring tech-driven eye comfort to computer users everywhere.

Reimagine Laptop Lighting

For someone needing a portable solution to mitigate insufficient computer light, BenQ’s new LaptopBar ( is ideal. This compact light bar attaches to your laptop via a non-damaging magnetic patch, and through an innovative process involving 20 million beam simulations, creates a CIRCUM-Light™ 3D-surrounding illumination that brings together central brightness and ambient light to alleviate eye strain.

The light bar also offers:

• A personalized auto-dimming feature, which remembers your specific lighting preferences and intelligently adapts to changes in environmental light.
• A foldable arm offering height adjustability for your smart light, letting you choose between a limited or wide field of light.

Weighing less than an iPhone 15 Pro, the LaptopBar is easy to transport and intuitive to use. A built-in battery can maintain 100 minutes of operation at 100% brightness and 160 minutes at 50% brightness, so you can use it anywhere.

Tech-Driven Lighting Solutions

An innovator of eye-comforting light for your monitor, BenQ’s ScreenBar Halo ( securely clamps onto most monitor models to distribute light around your workspace. It features:

• BenQ’s first immersive back lighting mode, which lets you switch among three lighting modes to balance any contrasting light between your computer screen and its surroundings.
• An ASYM-Light™ asymmetrical optical design that prevents reflected glare on the screen and reduces digital eye strain; and a real-time auto-dimming feature with a built-in light sensor detects ambient lighting and supplements illumination of the desktop as needed.

The wireless controller lets you switch lighting modes from your desktop and customize the lighting for a range of environments.

Taking Control of Your Eye Care

You can take care of your eyes by supplying the light relief they need. Your screen time likely won’t be decreasing any time soon, but with smart lighting solutions like BenQ’s LaptopBar and ScreenBar Halo, you can decrease eye strain and promote eye comfort no matter how much time you spend in front of a screen.

Learn More

For additional information and resources on improving eye health, visit:

FOR YOUR HEALTH: The Transformative Value of Health Coaching

A little help from a good coach can make a big difference in your health and happiness.

(NAPS)—If you’ve ever tried to make a healthy lifestyle change, you may have found that your initial excitement fades quickly, and you return to your old habits. Well, you’re not alone. 

In fact, going into this new year, more and more health plans are including a helpful program benefit that helps members transform their own health and stick to new behaviors—health coaching.

Health coaching is a dynamic and impactful approach to health care. It has the potential to change lives in numerous positive ways. The collaborative partnership between a trained health coach and a health plan member is rooted in several key principles and strategies including personalized guidance, behavior change, and empowerment. Some of the key aspects of coaching include enhancing well-being, learning, social support, instruction, and the development of improved habits. 

“The reason I love coaching so much—and why I say it’s transformative—is because it is so rare for someone to come into a space where the focus is completely on them, where a coach wants to know about their hopes, empathizes with their struggles, and knows how to help them find their way,” said Emily Adams, a national board-certified health and wellness coach, who manages coach performance at American Specialty Health (ASH).

While promoting health through lifestyle changes is nothing new, it was only in the past 30 years that health coaching has become a widely accepted activity, one that’s designed to help people convert their wellness goals into effective actions.

Today, with refined coaching processes and behavior-change techniques, an entire industry has evolved to empower a lot more individuals to live healthier. And in this post-pandemic era, virtual health coaching and well-being programs are burgeoning in modern health care. 

Physical health is not the only thing that health coaches address. They recognize the connection between fitness, mental health, and emotional well-being.

“Some people start working with a coach thinking they want help with their diet but realize that the reason they are eating poorly is because they don’t have tools to cope with stress,” Adams said. “Many are surprised when they start to recognize their own strengths, improve their confidence, and start to take ownership of their thoughts—recognizing how they are working for and against their goals.”

Adams works with well-being coaches in the Silver&Fit® Healthy Aging & Exercise program to ensure quality member support through coach training and oversight. Silver&Fit members can be paired with certified health coaches to work on their fitness, nutrition, and lifestyle goals during scheduled phone or video sessions. 

“We’ve had members come into the program completely defeated and unsure if they will ever be able to improve their health,” Adams said. “We’ve also had members who are very close to reaching their health goals and just need a little extra support to get there.”

Health coaching holds immense potential for health plan members. According to Adams, the benefits a member might gain from working with a health coach could include: 

• Clarity about their hopes, values, and goals 

• Confidence in themselves, their strengths, and their abilities and how to advocate for themselves and their health 

• Tools for self-accountability, positive habit forming, and proactively managing stress 

• Knowing how to break big changes into small, manageable steps 

• Awareness of thought barriers and how to overcome them 

• Learning how to find what they need and use their resources

“As coaches, we get to walk alongside people as they grow, learn, discover, and utilize their strengths to be the healthiest versions of themselves,” said Adams. 

It’s important that your health plan supports your long-term health and well-being. If you want to make healthy lifestyle changes in the coming year, check with your health plan on coaching program benefits. And if you find you have this benefit, make the most of it. The transformative power of working with a coach can have a lasting impact and help you take control of your health and maintain your well-being.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: What to know about RSV

(NAPSI)—You may remember the old saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” That’s never been more true than it is right now about good health and older adults, especially when it comes to protecting yourself during what is commonly known as respiratory disease season (fall through early spring).
Last year saw the devastating effects of an increase in COVID, flu, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and pneumonia on the wellbeing of older Americans. Fortunately, most people had access to vaccines for all but RSV last year. And in good news for this year, for the first time ever, there is a vaccine approved by FDA for preventing RSV in older adults.

The Problem

RSV is a serious respiratory virus whose full toll on seniors is just now being recognized. Each year, RSV results in up to 160,000 hospitalizations among people aged 65 and over and leads to as many as 10,000 deaths in older people in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
It can also prove serious for anyone with chronic conditions such as asthma, COPD, heart or other lung problems, certain autoimmune conditions and those receiving chemotherapy or radiation treatments. It is easily spread from contact with a contaminated surface as well as through the air (when someone infected sneezes or coughs), so anyone at any age can get it.

A Solution

RSV vaccines are now approved and available throughout the U.S. and the cost is covered fully for Medicare beneficiaries. These vaccines can truly protect your health across your lifespan as they are now available for adults aged 60 years or older, as well as for infants through maternal immunization.

What Else You Should Know

It is always a good idea to review your health plan. When contacting Medicare, make certain that you are contacting the actual government agency itself. Only government agencies can use the .gov ending and the best number to use to reach trained Medicare experts is 1-800-633-4227. It’s easy to remember – it’s 1-800-Medicare.
The National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs (NANASP) created a resource outlining the five things to know about RSV to help get the word out about this important opportunity to protect the health of older adults. English and Spanish versions can be found at
It’s a good idea to talk to your pharmacist or healthcare provider about whether you should get the RSV vaccine, and any other recommended vaccines.

FOR YOUR HEALTH: What You Need to Know About Cataracts

Keep an eye on your sight. Blurry vision, faded colors and double images can all be symptoms of cataracts—which can be cured.

(NAPSI)—By age 80, most people either have cataracts or have had cataract surgery. That’s because most cataracts are the result of natural aging. You may not notice that you have a cataract at first. But over time, they can make your vision blurry or hazy, colors fade, you can’t see well at night, or you may see double images. The good news is that cataract surgery can restore your sight. With a high success rate of more than 90 percent, cataract surgery enables people to see better after their cataract is removed.

Here are the top six things ophthalmologists – physicians who specialize in medical and surgical eye care – want you to know about cataracts:

1. Cataracts can be removed with surgery. Surgery is the only way to cure cataracts. Early on, you may be able to cope with reduced vision from cataracts by using brighter lights, wearing anti-glare sunglasses, or using magnifying lenses for reading. But if cataracts start getting in the way of everyday activities such as reading, driving, or watching TV, an ophthalmologist will need to remove the clouded natural lens and replace it with an artificial lens, also called an intraocular lens (or IOL), to correct blurry vision.

2. You can slow development of early cataracts. You can take steps to protect your eyes from cataracts. Using 100 percent UV blocking sunglasses, quitting smoking, maintaining control over high blood sugar, and eating a healthy diet can help prevent cataracts.

3. People with diabetes are more likely to get cataracts. Natural aging is the most common cause of cataracts, but some people are at higher risk for cataracts than others. People who have diabetes with high blood sugar levels can get cataracts quicker and at a younger age than those with normal blood sugar levels. Improving glucose levels may help delay cataracts.

4. Eye color affects your risk of developing cataracts. Studies show that people with dark brown eyes have a higher risk of developing cataracts than people with lighter eyes. However, UV light is a known contributor to cataract development no matter what color your eyes are. Wearing sunglasses whenever outdoors is recommended for everyone.

5. Treating cataracts may decrease your risk of dementia. Though the link between eye health and dementia is unclear, recent studies suggest people who had cataract surgery were 30 percent less likely to develop dementia.

6. You may eventually need a follow-up procedure. Some people will again develop hazy vision years after cataract surgery. This is usually because the lens capsule has become cloudy. The capsule is the part of your eye that holds the IOL in place. Your ophthalmologist can use a laser to open the cloudy capsule and restore clear vision, a procedure called a capsulotomy.

Regular eye exams are important to maintaining your best vision, even after cataract surgery. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends scheduling a visit to the ophthalmologist every year after cataract surgery if you’re older than 65, or every two years if under 65.

Can’t Afford an Eye Exam? EyeCare America® Can Help.

For individuals age 65 or older who are concerned about their risk of eye disease and/or the cost of an eye exam, you may be eligible for a medical eye exam, often at no out-of-pocket cost, through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America® program. This public service program matches volunteer ophthalmologists with eligible patients in need of eye care across the United States. To see if you or a loved one qualifies, visit to determine your eligibility.