Maintaining strong eye health is one of the most important facets of our overall well-being, but it's something many people attend to rarely. Our vision is the sense that most preserves our personal independence, yet active measures to improve eyesight and eye health aren't commonplace. With that in mind, we wanted to present a list of ways that you can help keep your vision strong, regardless of age.
1. Proper Diet: Many people don't realize the link between their diet and eyesight, but many nutrients help maintain your vision against age-related macular degeneration, among them Vitamin C, Vitamin E, zinc, lutein, and omega-3 fatty acids. Aside from supplements, you can get your fill of these nutrients by eating:
- Green, leafy vegetables: spinach, kale, collard greens.
- Oily fish: salmon, tuna.
- Non-meat proteins: eggs, nuts, beans.
- Citrus fruits and juices.
It's not just nutrients, though. Your weight also affects your eyesight! Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults and a factor in eye diseases like glaucoma.
2. Proper Eyewear: Wear sunglasses, tinted lenses on your glasses, or contacts with UV protection whenever possible. Increased UV radiation exposure increases your chances of macular degeneration as well as cataracts. In addition, always use recommended eye safety gear during contact or fast-paced sports, while operating outdoor recreational vehicles, or while working in any job involving hazardous or airborne materials. Keep your hands and contact lenses clean before putting your lenses in.
3. Don't Smoke: Smoking leads to an increased risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, and optic nerve damage.
4. Comprehensive Dilated Eye Exams: Go beyond just reading the eye chart. Getting your eyes dilated so that your optometrist or ophthalmologist can thoroughly examine in the inside and back of your eyes can help detect signs of common eye diseases in their early stages. So visit your eye doctor regularly and don't settle for just the simple tests!
5. Learn Your Family History: This is important for every aspect of your health, but it can be easy to neglect your family eyesight history when you're concerned about heart disease or cancer risk. Many eye diseases are hereditary, and you should learn about ones that may be in your family line.
6. Use Screens Responsibly: Your eyes work harder when viewing a digital screen, whether it's a work computer, phone, or tablet. Letters or images on a screen lack the high contrast or sharp definition of those on a printed page, and reflections or glare can make viewing more difficult. Extended screen use can lead to eyestrain, dry eyes, blurred vision, headaches, or neck and shoulder pain from poor posture. Some ways to reduce the impact of screens include:
- The 20-20-20 Rule: Every 20 minutes, look at someone 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
- Use proper lighting: Ambient lighting during computer use should be about half as bright as in a regular office. Close drapes, shades, or blinds. If possible, use fewer or lower intensity light bulbs or fluorescent tubes. Use halogen or incandescent floor lamps if available.
- Blink frequently: People actually blink less while using a computer, which can promote eyestrain and dry your eyes out. Make yourself blink frequently to counter this. You may also want to use lubricating eye drops.
- Control screen settings: A glare filter for your screen may help, as well as altering computer screen settings. Aim for lower brightness, higher contrast, larger text size, and a lower color temperature. In addition, a flat panel, LCD screen display is easier on the eyes than an old tube-based monitor.
- Control your seating position: Ideally, your computer screen should be 20-28 inches from your eyes, and about 15-20 degrees below eye level. Looking slightly downward at the screen is easier, so adjust your screen so that the top of the monitor is at eye level.
Be sure to consult your doctor or other qualified health care professional before taking any medication, supplement, or beginning any health regimen.