Lifestyle Tips For Maintaining Healthy Eyes
In an increasingly health-conscious world, eye health is often overlooked until it is too late. Many of us take our eyesight for granted, only taking action once our level of vision has been affected. In many cases, once vision has been lost, it may not be restored.
RNIB, a vision charity in the UK, estimates that over half of all sight loss can be prevented by adopting healthy habits to keep your eyes in tip-top shape. Below we will examine several small lifestyle changes, that when put into action, will help you see clearer for longer.
Diet and Exercise for Eye Health
Adopting a varied and healthy diet is not only great for overall health and weight management, but what you eat can have a significant impact on your ocular health. It was recently reported that a teen was left blind after the onset of optic neuropathy caused by poor diet choices.
It is common knowledge that a regular exercise routine, combined with healthy eating habits, is beneficial for you. A sedentary lifestyle is linked to the development of high blood pressure, a significant risk factor in developing retinal vein occlusion. Even a light exercise routine has been found to reduce the occurrence of glaucoma by 25%, due to a lowered level of ocular perfusion pressure. Aerobic exercise also promotes a healthy flow of oxygenated blood to the retina and optic nerve.
Lowering your sugar intake, particularly if there is a familial history of diabetes, can save you from a whole host of visual ailments. Diabetes affects the body’s ability to produce or receive the benefits of the hormone insulin, which helps regulate sugar levels in your blood.
If blood sugar levels are consistently high, the chance of developing sight-affecting conditions rises exponentially. Eye conditions linked to diabetes typically affect the retina (light-sensing tissues at the back of your eye), causing damage to the blood vessels resulting in diabetic retinopathy. Diabetes is also linked to an increase in the early development of cataracts, higher levels of intraocular pressure leading to glaucoma, and macular degeneration.
Current research suggests that various nutrients, along with antioxidants, can reduce the risk of macular degeneration or cataracts. It has been noted that vitamin C can help prevent or improve symptoms of glaucoma, while omega-3 fatty acids can safeguard from macular damage and help those suffering from chronic dry eye. Not only is it good for the eyes, but quality nutrition is also suitable for overall health. Reducing the risk of diabetes, heart disease, and keeping weight to optimum levels.
Omega-3s are a group of essential fatty acids that play critical roles in your body and may deliver several health benefits. Omega-3 oils constitute a significant factor in the development of healthy cell generation in muscles and organs. Benefits of omega-3 also include brain and heart health, but the benefits for our eyes are numerous.
Glaucoma, dry eye, and macular degeneration are less likely to develop in people getting the right level of omega-3 from their diet. Fish is a fantastic source of omega-3’s, especially tuna and salmon. Egg yolks also contain good levels of omega-3, along with certain nuts and seeds.
Often linked with benefits to the immune system, vitamin C also helps keep our eyes in a healthy state. There are many small blood vessels located in the eye, and vitamin C ensures they can function correctly. Linked with a reduction in the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, vitamin C can be found in citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons. Green leafy vegetables such as spinach are also a food source high in vitamin C.
Most of us do not get the amount of zinc that we should, but zinc has several effects on eye health. Allowing the body to process vitamin A more effectively, this promotes good health towards the back of the eye (retina). Zinc can also help combat eye infection and slow the progression of cataracts. Red meat, eggs, and poultry are all sources high in zinc.
Lutein and zeaxanthin
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in leafy greens like kale or spinach. Lutein can be found in the macula of the eye and helps shield harmful UV rays from damaging the eye. Zeaxanthin is extremely common within the eye, and when combined with lutein can help prevent cataracts and vision loss while reducing eye fatigue.
Avocados, broccoli, and peas are also a good source of lutein and zeaxanthin, egg yolks do contain lutein, but unfortunately, they don’t contain zeaxanthin.
As a rule, everyone should practice good hygiene daily with frequent washing of hands at the vanguard when it comes to reducing the spread of germs and bacteria. Many eye-related issues can be transferred from touching the face around the eyes with unwashed hands. Staph bacteria, conjunctivitis, and even gonorrhea can be transferred from hand to eye. Viral and bacterial infections can cause permanent damage if severe enough. It is good practice to try and avoid excessive touching and rubbing around the eyes, even with washed hands.
If you wear contact lenses, there is a heightened risk of developing keratitis, and you should have a routine in place to reduce your risk. A good contact lens regimen will go a long way to protect the eyes from infection. With contact lenses running a 5x higher chance of infection than eye surgery, it can be detrimental to follow a poor routine when it comes to contact lenses.
Some valuable rules to follow are:
• Don’t reuse solution
• Dispose of expired solution
• Don’t use the same contact lenses for extended periods
• Avoid touching the tip of the solution bottle
• Regularly sterilize your contact lens case
• Wash your hands before touching contact lenses
Invest in a Quality Set of Sunglasses
Even on cloudy days, we are bombarded by UV rays from the sun, and while most people are aware of the effects of overexposure on our skin, our vision can suffer too. UV rays are divided into three types, UV-A, UV-B and UV-C.
UV-C has a very short wavelength and is entirely absorbed by the atmosphere and ozone layer. Both UV-A and UV-B can adversely affect ocular health. UV-A has been linked to retinal damage, increasing the risk factor for developing macular degeneration as we age. UV-B is known to affect the cornea and the lens of your eye, leading to an increased risk of cataract development and photokeratitis (corneal sunburn). Purchasing a quality pair of polarized or UV rated sunglasses is an investment in lifelong levels of good vision.
Reduce Screen Time
Some people believe that a disproportionate amount of time as an adult spent looking at screens (mobile/tablet, or computer) will make any present refractive error worse. In many cases, however, this is not the case.
Some young adults, usually under age 25, can progress their myopia (short-sightedness), or develop mild myopia, with prolonged near vision activities and screen time. However, it can be a very significant contributing factor in the development of myopia in children (more on this shortly). Nevertheless, our eyes can still be affected by the overuse of digital visual displays. Blue light emitted by monitors and mobile devices has been linked to macular degeneration and poor retinal health.
Spending prolonged periods on the computer can also cause the eyes to fatigue or become strained, leading to headaches. People also tend to blink less while focused on a screen, leading to irritability and dry eye. A cluster of these and other symptoms is known as computer vision syndrome. Screen fatigue can be avoided by taking regular breaks from computer use throughout the day.
Myopia, also known as near-sightedness, is currently a growing global epidemic affecting between 30-40% of the western world and rising to 80-95% in parts of Asia. Caused by an axial lengthening of the eye, meaning it is too long from front to back, light is incorrectly focused in front of the retina, resulting in poor vision over distance.
Myopia mainly develops throughout childhood and teenage years, and modern research has found that children who spend more time outside are less likely to experience a major myopic shift. It is suspected there has been such a sharp rise in the levels of myopic children thanks to the availability of modern technology. Children are now more likely to interact with their friends online from home through video games and instant messaging than going outside.
If you have young children, it is essential to schedule outdoor family activities to encourage them to get outside and reduce the likelihood of near-sightedness development. Myopia is easily treatable in young people with glasses and contact lenses. Other treatment options include laser eye surgery and intraocular lens implants (artificial lenses) once the progression has stabilized.
Not only good for your health in general, quitting smoking is fantastic for eye health. Research has proven that cigarette smoke causes the film of tears on the eye to evaporate more quickly, leaving people with chronic dry eye symptoms, which can lead to further complications if not treated.
Keep Regular Eye Examinations in Your Calendar
Regular eye check-ups are an essential part of self-care that everybody should have ingrained into their routine. In a lot of cases, people don’t display the symptoms of developing conditions until they have reached a stage that could cause harm.
If you are aged 40 or over, regular eye examinations are especially important, considering many people won’t develop conditions such as glaucoma until later in life. Early diagnosis and treatment are vital to avoid any unnecessary loss of vision.