US-based show-biz guru Nelson Aspen hadn’t set foot on the New York subway for six months… until it was time for his yearly eye exam.
Now, the entertainment editor of Channel Seven’s Sunrise is urging Australians in their 50s to take the Check My Macula
quiz to learn their risk factors for macular disease, then follow his lead and book a check-up with their optometrist. During the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Big Apple, Aspen bunkered down. But when his annual eye exam popped up on his calendar in September, “I got back on the subway and I went to my eye appointment with my mask on.
“That’s important to stress – people are going, ‘Oh, I want to go to the doctor [optometrist]’. The doctor will ensure you’re safe. All protocols were followed, I was not nervous, they disinfected the little chin thing before I stuck my chin on it, and I felt completely comfortable. I think that’s important to let people know nowadays that the doctor is a safe place to go – don’t put it off.
“It’s an important part of my life, just like going to the gym or exercising… it’s important that even when your vision doesn’t change, you’ve got to go anyway – I always have.”
Aspen is encouraging Australians to see their eye health professional in the wake of a new study that warns 50-year-old Aussies are gambling with their sight by skipping eye exams and not knowing the risk factors for age-related macular disease.
One in seven Aussies over 50 show evidence of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), but only one in 10 people aged 50-59 can correctly identify their risk factors – age, smoking, family history and lack of regular eye exams – according to a YouGov Galaxy poll commissioned by Macular Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA).
Anyone living with diabetes is also at risk of diabetic eye disease and is encouraged to take the Check My Macula quiz.
Aspen’s dad was a surgeon, and he describes his shopping list of routine health checks as “part of my DNA”.
The 57-year-old wants Aussies to join him by booking an eye exam every two years once they turn 50, then once a year beyond their 65th birthday.
“I’m the one that’s always wagging the finger and friends and colleagues about routine annual physicals or colonoscopies after 50,” he says.
“I realise that I’m a little obsessive-compulsive about my own health and welfare, but getting the message out to others is what I do.
“It’s shocking to me when anyone takes their health for granted, because it is so fragile.”
Check My Macula
For more information about AMD and other macular diseases, please contact Macular Disease Foundation Australia. MDFA operates a free National Helpline (1800 111 709) to provide information and support to members of the macular disease community, their families and carers.
Are you at risk of AMD? Get started by taking the quiz to learn what to do. Go to Check My Macula at www.CheckMyMacula.com.au and in under a minute, you’ll know your risk factors.
You can also download or order our free age-related macular degeneration booklet.