Update on health and wellness research

Innovative contact lenses; more health benefits of fish

Wearing a contact lens at night may help restore age-related loss of near vision

It may be possible to get rid of your reading glasses. Many older adults have age-related declines in near vision (presbyopia) requiring bifocals or reading glasses. Now, a newly emerging technique called hyperopic orthokeratology (OK) may provide an alternative for restoring near vision without the need for glasses. Researchers have just completed a small study showing that wearing OK contact lenses overnight can restore up-close vision in one eye. The investigators have found that wearing the contact lens overnight shapes the cornea of one eye to allow in-focus near vision for reading.

The study included 16 patients (43 to 59 years) with presbyopia, which is caused by age-related loss of flexibility in the cornea. Orthokeratology is a clinical technique to correct vision using specially designed rigid contact lenses to manipulate the shape of the cornea. This new approach is similar to orthodontic treatments that use braces to change the alignment of the teeth.

The researchers recently evaluated this technique by having patients wearing a custom-made OK lens in one eye overnight for one week. To preserve normal distance vision, the other eye was left untreated. In all patients, the technique was successful in restoring near vision in the treated eye.

The improvement was apparent on the first day after overnight wear, and increased further during the treatment week, according to the researchers.

Vision in the untreated eye was unaffected, and all patients retained normal distance vision with that eye. However, to retain the correction in near vision, patients had to continue wearing their lenses every night.

As expected, when patients stopped wearing their OK lens after the treatment week, presbyopia rapidly returned.

Before now, this technique has been mainly used to reduce nearsightedness (myopia) in younger patients. The new study found it is similarly effective in changing corneal shape and achieving desired correction in near vision in older patients with presbyopia.

Study strengthens link between eating fish and longevity

Bring on the salmon. A new study is suggesting that eating fish on a regular basis may help you live a longer and healthier life. For the first time, researchers have looked at older adults and their fish consumption and found that eating fish on a regular basis was associated with longevity.

Investigators at Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and at the University of Washington have found that older adults who have higher levels of blood omega-3 levels (fatty acids found almost exclusively in fatty fish and seafood) may be able to lower their overall mortality risk by as much as 27 percent and their mortality risk from heart disease by about 35 percent.

The researchers found that older adults who had the highest blood levels of the fatty acids lived 2.2 years longer on average than those with lower levels.

“Although eating fish has long been considered part of a healthy diet, few studies have assessed blood omega-3 levels and total deaths in older adults,” said lead author Dariush Mozaffarian, associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH. “Our findings support the importance of adequate blood omega-3 levels for cardiovascular health, and suggest that later in life these benefits could actually extend the years of remaining life.”

This study is the first to look at how objectively measured blood biomarkers of fish consumption relate to total mortality and specific causes of mortality in a general population. Previous studies have found that fish, which is rich in protein and heart-healthy fatty acids, reduces the risk of dying from heart disease. However, the effect on other causes of death or on total mortality has been unclear.

With this new study, the researchers sought to paint a clearer picture by examining biomarkers in the blood of adults not taking fish oil supplements, in order to provide the best assessments of the potential effects of dietary consumption of fish on multiple causes of death.

The researchers examined 16 years of data from about 2,700 U.S. adults age 65 or older who participated in the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS). All the subjects were generally healthy at baseline. At baseline and regularly during follow-up, participants had blood drawn, underwent physical examinations and diagnostic testing, and were questioned about their health status, medical history and lifestyle.

John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio broadcaster of The Medical Minute. He can be reached at medicalminutes@gmail.com.

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John Schieszer is an award-winning national journalist and radio and podcast broadcaster of The Medical Minute.

  • Email: medicalminutes@gmail.com

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