“I rely on my eyes as much as my feet when I’m running,” says USA Olympian Lori “Lolo” Jones, who knows all too well what a difference one wrong step can make.

Jones was the hands-down favorite to win the gold medal in the 100-meter hurdles at Beijing in 2008. With only seconds to go in the finals, Jones was breaking away from the pack when she clipped the ninth of ten hurdles and stumbled to the ground. She ended up in a seventh place.

“It’s like being hit in the stomach because you know you aren’t going to have another chance for four years,” she says.

Because Jones’ performance hinges upon her visual acuity and depth perception, eye exams and good vision care are an integral part of her regimen, especially since she has a family history of vision problems. Although Jones has 20/20 vision, she realizes there is more to eye sight than just that. “Good vision also includes having good contrast and being able to tolerate and recover from glare.”

What you don’t know about lutein

“I have a unique chance to inspire people and achieve my fairy tale ending in the next Olympics.”

Nearly half of Americans have low levels of lutein, an essential nutrient needed to protect eyes as they age and to help reduce the risk of some eye conditions, including Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of Eyesight is more than 20/20 vision blindness in Americans over 50. Jones was shocked to learn that she, too, had a low MPOD (macular pigment optical density) score—in a test used by eye doctorsto measure lutein levels in the eye.

“I can’t believe this is something I overlooked. I felt like I flunked out of college when I got the results,” admits Jones.

Lutein is found naturally in vegetables like spinach and broccoli. (Contrary to popular belief, carrots aren’t the only food for your eyes—leafy green vegetables have higher levels of lutein!) But for many it can be difficult to get the recommended daily amount of 10 mg of the nutrient everyday from diet alone. Jones now takes an eye vitamin with FloraGLO Lutein.

“Having healthy lutein levels not only helps protect my eyes from damaging light but it also helps improve their performance. Vision, like speed and strength, is critical to performing at the highest level,” she explains.

Overcoming obstacles

Jones, one of five siblings raised by a single mom in Des Moines, Iowa, has faced daunting circumstances before. She’s always been a huge believer that people shouldn’t let hardships stop them. She now ranks among the top three women all-time in 60- and 100-meter hurdles and has been gearing up for 2012 Olympics in London. “I have a unique chance to inspire people and achieve my fairy tale ending in the next Olympics,” she says. Keeping her eyes healthy will help her achieve the storybook finish she deserves.