Think eye health is all about genetics? These ten tips to improve your eye health will change your mind. Put these habits in place to maintain the best vision possible.
Get a Comprehensive Eye Exam
If you’ve had a vision screening recently at school or work, you might think, “I’m good. They said my vision was fine.”
That may be true. However, eye exams evaluate much more than simply your eyesight. They check the complete health of your eyes, from front to back. Eye exams look for early signs of serious eye problems such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration and detached retina.
The American Optometric Association (AOA) recommends a comprehensive eye exam every two years for adults ages 18 to 60 and annual exams for seniors age 61 and older. Your eye doctor will let you know if you have risk factors that warrant more frequent exams.
Have Eye Injuries Checked
From a black eye to a scratched cornea – every eye injury should be taken seriously. If you have any concerns, visit your eye doctor or an urgent care center.
To preserve your eye health in the event of an injury, check out these first aid recommendations from WebMD for common eye injuries (chemical exposure, blow to the eye, and foreign object). Each type of injury should be treated differently, so it’s important to know proper first aid in advance.
Find Out Your Family's Eye Health History
Be sure to ask at the next family reunion if anyone has any common eye diseases – in particular, glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts.
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, having a family history of eye disease can increase your risk of developing one yourself. For example, if you have a family member with glaucoma, you’re four to nine times more likely to develop the disease.
If you uncover any genetic secrets, tell your eye doctor so he/she can be especially alert to any signs during your next exam.
Eat These Foods
Your mom was right. Eating carrots can help your eyes. But not just carrots. Studies have shown that certain vitamins and nutrients may reduce age-related decline in eye health. Nutrients include zinc, copper, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, zeaxanthin, and lutein. To incorporate them into your diet, add these foods to your plate:
- Fish such as tuna, salmon, trout and mackerel, sardines, anchovies, and herring
- Nuts and legumes such as walnuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, peanuts and lentils
- Seeds such as chia, flax and hemp
- Citrus fruits such as lemons, oranges and grapefruits
- Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, collards
- Sweet potatoes
While it may seem unrelated, getting regular exercise may help preserve your vision.
Studies have shown that exercise can reduce the risk of common eye ailments such as cataracts, wet age-related macular degeneration and glaucoma. A good diet and exercise can also help avoid health conditions that aren’t eye-related but that can lead to eye problems (such as type 2 diabetes).
Just another good reason to get moving and stay fit.
Smoking is often associated with heart disease and lung cancer. Many people don't realize that smoking can also lead to vision loss. Studies show smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy and Dry Eye Syndrome.
The good news is that after people quit smoking, their risks for some eye diseases becomes almost as low as for people who never smoked. That’s even more incentive to quit as soon as possible.
Wear Protective Eyewear
Don’t think that your prescription glasses will protect your eyes from that weekend home project or a game of racquetball.
They’re not the same as protective eyewear. Lenses in sports and construction eyewear are usually made of polycarbonate. This impact-resistant material can protect eyes from fast-moving objects.
Don’t Forget Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses aren’t just for looking suave. The right pair will protect your eyes from the sun's ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure increases your chances of cataracts and macular degeneration. Look for glasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side.
A few simple changes to your workstation can greatly reduce eye strain.
Your ambient lighting should be about half as bright as that typically found in most offices. Consider installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor or hood. Upgrade to an LCD screen. These are easier on the eyes and usually have an anti-reflective surface. Adjust the brightness and contrast settings on your computer.
It’s also important to blink often, take breaks and use the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from your computer at least every 20 minutes and focus on a distant object (at least 20 feet away) for at least 20 seconds.
Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Are your eyes twitching? Feeling especially dry? You might need a good nap.
Studies have shown that the eye needs at least five hours of sleep per night to properly replenish. Insomnia prevents eyes from getting needed fluid circulation, which cleans and renews the eyes. A common side effect associated with lack of sleep is eye spasms. Over time, however, lack of sleep can lead to many different consequences, including popped blood vessels or dry eye.
Just a few small changes can mean the difference in seeing clearly for years to come. Your eye health is in your hands.