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5 ways to naturally lower your risk of cataracts

Are you worried about getting this eye condition? Here’s what you can do to keep your eyes healthy.

What are cataracts? They’re a cloudy area in the lens of your eye. (That’s the clear part of the eye that helps to focus light). It turns out they’re pretty common.

In fact, more than half of adults in the United States ages 80 and older either have cataracts or have undergone surgery to remove them, according to the National Eye Institute. While they’re treatable, there is no natural cure for them. And they can take a long time to show up.

“In age-related cataracts, changes in vision can be very gradual,” says Ronald Benner, O.D., optometrist and president of the American Optometric Association. “Some people may not initially recognize the visual changes. However, as cataracts worsen, vision symptoms increase.”

But there are some easy things you can do to slow down the development of cataracts. Here are 5 ways you can lower your risk, naturally.

Need a health insurance plan? Get more details now, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

1. Reduce your exposure to sunlight.

Ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun can be harmful to everything from your skin to your eyes. And if you expose your eyes to those UV rays for too long, it can increase your risk of getting cataracts. That’s because it damages the eye’s surface tissues, as well as the cornea and lens. To avoid this, Dr. Benner suggests wearing sunglasses that have UV-blocking lenses or wearing a wide-brimmed hat.

2. Stop smoking.

Are you a smoker? If so, you’re increasing your risk of developing cataracts. When you smoke, it can affect the retina, the delicate, light-sensitive tissue that lines the inside of the eye. It can also damage the lens and macula, the most sensitive part of the retina that gives you sharp vision. In fact, people who smoke cigarettes are 2 to 3 times more likely to develop cataracts than those who don’t smoke, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Need help quitting smoking? There are free hotlines, such as 1-800-QUIT-NOW, and other programs that you can use for ongoing support.

3. Cut back on drinking.

Everything in moderation, right? That also goes for wine, beer and the occasional cocktail. But even drinking small amounts of alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of developing cataracts. One study found that the need to get cataract surgery increased even in light to moderate drinkers — i.e., those that consume less than 2 drinks a day — compared with nondrinkers.

An insurance plan can help cover all types of surgeries. Enter your ZIP code to search available plans, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730.

4. Add more antioxidants to your diet.

Another way to decrease your risk of cataracts is by adding more antioxidants to your diet, notes Dr. Benner. Antioxidants help your body fight diseases by neutralizing compounds known as free radicals. Some great food sources of antioxidants that you can add to your daily diet include:

  • Blueberries
  • Chickpeas
  • Leafy green vegetables (such as collard greens and spinach)
  • Sweet potatoes

Dr. Benner also notes that researchers have linked nutrients that are good for your eyes with a decreased risk of certain eye diseases, such as cataracts. These antioxidants include:

  • Lutein and zeaxanthin (important for the health of your macula)
  • Vitamin C (helps protect your eyes from damage)
  • Vitamin E (helps protect your cells from damage)
  • Zinc (helps protect your eyes from UV rays)

5. Schedule an annual eye exam.

Getting an annual eye exam may be the best preventive step you can take to lower your risk of cataracts. Annual eye exams — and any others, as directed — with an eye doctor are one of the most important ways to protect your vision, notes Dr. Benner. “The in-person comprehensive eye exams we perform go far beyond vision and can detect more than 270 serious health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, autoimmune diseases and even some forms of cancer.”

Have questions about insurance? Take a glance at the benefits and compare with confidence, or call a licensed insurance agent at 1-844-211-7730 to discuss your options.

This article contains information that is not compiled by UnitedHealthcare or any of its subsidiaries. UnitedHealthcare does not represent all the information provided are statements of fact. Please consult directly with your primary care physician if you need medical advice.


  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “Antioxidants.” Retrieved from Accessed October 19, 2023
  2. National Eye Institute. “Cataracts.” August 24, 2023. Retrieved from
  3. National Eye Institute. “Protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV light.” July 5, 2022. Retrieved from
  4. Science Reports. “Alcohol use patterns and risk of incident cataract surgery: a large scale case-control study in Japan.” November 22, 2022. Retrieved from
  5. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. “How smoking can contribute to vision loss and blindness.” April 26, 2022. Retrieved from

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