Top tips for buying healthy shades this summer

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Eighties retro-style sunglasses may be the trendy choice this summer, with everyone from Amy Winehouse to Sienna Miller favouring them – but experts are warning fashion-conscious Brits to focus on looking after their eyes when it comes to buying a new pair of shades.

Research reveals that almost 80 per cent of under-25s put fashion and price BEFORE safety standards when choosing sunglasses.

And with some sunglasses on sale across the UK offering little or no protection from harmful UV rays, The College of Optometrists is warning of the dangers as people prepare for summer holidays.

Sunlight can damage the retina and lens of the eye, increasing the long-term risk of developing conditions such as cataracts and possibly AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration).

Dr Susan Blakeney, optometric adviser at The College of Optometrists, says: “With increasing awareness of the risk of skin cancer, most of us wouldn’t dream of going outside on a sunny day without suncream protection. Yet many forget or are even unaware of just how delicate the eyes can be, and will be going on summer holidays with totally unprotected eyes, or with sunglasses that are not up to scratch.”

The research also reveals:

– The 66 and over age group is the only one to focus on protection over anything else when buying sunglassesÂ…although theyÂ’re also the least likely group to have a pair

– Overall, the majority of Brits (62.6 per cent) are more influenced by how sunglasses look and how much they cost than whether they actually protect eyes

– Around one in seven of us (14 per cent) never wear sunglasses at all

Dr Blakeney adds: “It is particularly worrying that younger people have so little regard for their eyes when up to 80 per cent of exposure to UK over a person’s lifetime occurs before the age of 18. It’s therefore especially important to make sure that children wear sunglasses so that any long-term damage is minimised.

“Summer is just around the corner, so it’s time to protect your eyes by making sure that you’ve got a good quality pair of sunglasses to wear.”

The College of Optometrists offers the following advice on what to look for when making a purchase and how best to protect your eyes this summer:

Buy good quality, dark sunglasses – Sunlight can damage the retina and the lens of the eye, and we risk causing long term damage to our eyesight, developing conditions such as cataracts and possibly AMD (Age-related Macular Degeneration) by remaining unprotected.

Check they are up to standard – Good sunglasses donÂ’t need to be expensive: you can purchase perfectly adequate protective sunglasses from high street stores. Look out for glasses carrying the “CE” Mark and British Standard BS EN 1836:1997, which ensures that the sunglasses offer a safe level of UV protection.

DonÂ’t forget your kids – The World Health Organisation estimates that up to 80 per cent of a person’s lifetime exposure to UV is received before the age of 18.* WhatÂ’s good for you is good for them, too.

TheyÂ’re not just for summer though – The sunÂ’s UV rays can be present in high enough levels to warrant protection throughout the year (so while some celebrities may be laughed at for wearing sunglasses in the winter, it actually may be good for eye health.) In fact, some people find the glare of the sun more noticeable in winter, particularly when they are driving, as the sun is lower in the sky. If you drive it is handy to keep a pair of (prescription if you need them) sunglasses in the car. And sunglasses should never be worn when driving at night.
Light coloured eyes are especially vulnerable – People with light coloured eyes are most at risk from sun damage. If you have blue eyes, take even more care to wear glasses in the sun.

People who wear glasses can wear sunglasses too – Sunglasses can be made up to any prescription: distance, reading, bifocals or varifocals.

The College of Optometrists, the professional, scientific and examining body for optometrists in the UK, has launched the appeal as part of its ongoing campaign to raise awareness of eye health.

About the research

The main research for this release was carried out in May and June 2006 by Canvasse Opinion.

About The College of Optometrists

The College of Optometrists is the Professional, Scientific and Examining Body for Optometry in the UK, working for the public benefit. Supporting its Members in all aspects of professional development, the College provides pre-registration training and assessment, continuous professional development opportunities, and advice and guidance on professional conduct and standards, enabling our Members to serve their patients well and contribute to the wellbeing of local communities.

Previously known as ophthalmic opticians, optometrists are trained professionals who examine eyes, test sight, give advice on visual problems, and prescribe and dispense spectacles or contact lenses. They also recommend other treatments or visual aids where appropriate. Optometrists are trained to recognise eye diseases, referring such cases as necessary, and can also use or supply various eye drugs.

Optometrists study at university for at least three years and participate in a full year of training and supervision, called the pre-registration year, before qualifying. Once qualified, they have the opportunity to develop their interests in specialist aspects of practice such as contact lenses, treating eye diseases, low vision, childrenÂ’s vision and sports vision.

All optometrists practising in the UK must be registered with the General Optical Council, the professionÂ’s regulatory body, and are listed in the Opticians Register. The letters FCOptom or MCOptom after an optometristÂ’s name means that he or she is a fellow or member of the College of Optometrists.
There are currently over 10,000 registered optometrists in the UK.

Cool mice live longer!

La Jolla: Mice cooled by half a degree below normal had a life expectancy 20% longer, or the equivalent of 7-8 additional human years.

The result implies that chilling human blood could also stretch out our lifespan, if a safe way can be found to do it. “Maybe from the point of view of survival, 37 is not exactly optimal,” says lead researcher Bruno Conti of the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California.

It has long been held that the ideal human body temperature is 37 degrees Celsius. But this new study suggests that 36.5 °C might be even better.

Researchers have known for decades that a diet containing a third less calories than usual extends the lifetime of mice and other mammals by up to 40% and drops their body temperature by half a degree or more.

It was not known whether the cooler temperature helps stave off ageing or is simply a by-product of the low-calorie diet. And this is virtually impossible to test, because mammals maintain the same temperature regardless of the surrounding clime.

Conti’s team managed to cool down mice using genetic engineering. They used a gene called uncoupling protein 2, which diverts the cells’ mitochondria from their usual task of making chemical energy, and instead prompts them to release energy as heat.

They inserted this gene into a group of brain cells in the animals’ hypothalamus and near to the region that senses and controls body temperature, much like a thermostat. The gene effectively heated up the thermostat and, as a result, tricked the rest of the body into cooling down by 0.3 to 0.5 °C.

Cooled female mice had a life expectancy 20% longer and males 12% longer. The mice appeared to live typically healthy lives up to the point that they died; they were not simply stretching out their frail, elderly days. The results are published in Science1.

The study suggests that the lower body temperature accounts for some of the age-fighting effects of calorie restriction. It may be that the cooler temperature slows down metabolism and the manufacture of by-products such as free radicals that damage and age cells.

“You don’t necessarily have to eat less to have the beneficial effects,” Conti says.

“Not many people are willing to spend their lives starving themselves,” says Cliff Saper who studies sleep and feeding at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. If, on the other hand, researchers can find a way to carry out the same brain-warming gene therapy in people, “You could get people to sign up for that.”

Nobody knows why 37 °C is, on average, the temperature that evolution favoured for humans and most other mammals, but it is generally assumed to be optimal for biochemical reactions.

So if 36.5 °C helps animals to live longer, why wasn’t it selected for through evolution? The cooler temperature probably has no selective advantage because it stretches out life after reproduction, and does not affect the ability of animals to have children and pass on their genes. And although Conti’s mice appeared normal, it’s possible that the lower body temperature actually causes subtle health problems.

“If there is a selective advantage to being cooler, evolution would have pushed us in that direction,” Saper says.

Conti suspects that some people may have small differences in their core body temperature that might alter their rate of aging, perhaps making some longer-living than others. This would only be possible to test using small, swallowed or implanted thermometers such as those carried by the experimental mice.
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