The eyes are not just the window to the soul; they are our window to the world.
They help us recognize loved ones, take in a play, spot potential dangers, and assess our environment.
For most people, good vision plays a huge part in the quality of life.
But, for as big of a job as our eyes have to do, they are delicate. Everything from diet to genetics to overall health can affect our vision and, consequently, our full enjoyment of life.
While we can’t do much about common eye diseases we inherit, there are many things we can do in our daily lives to keep our eyes as healthy and sharp as possible.
Here are our Top 10 Tips for Healthier Eyes.
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Top 10 Tips For Healthier Eyes
So, what are our top tips for healthier eyes?
1) Eat a balanced diet
Research has consistently shown a powerful connection between diet and health, and eye health is no exception.
A healthy diet can slow the progression of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration, just to name a couple of benefits. An easy rule of thumb for eating for eye health is to pack your plate with vivid colors from vegetable and fruits, then reserve a spot for healthy fats:
- Vegetables. Get eye-friendly vitamin E, vitamin A, beta-carotene, and more from leafy greens (kale, spinach, bok choy), red bell peppers, berries, carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and oranges. Berries such as strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and citrus fruits are excellent eye-healthy snacks.
- Fish and seafood. Salmon, tuna, shrimp, trout, and other oily fish are packed with omega-3 fatty acids, which protect eyes from glaucoma and dry eye. Other smart choices include beans and legumes, nuts, and eggs.
- Lean proteins. Lean meats and eggs are a good source of zinc and vitamin A. Nuts, seeds, beans, and nut butters are as well, and have the added benefit of being high in healthy fiber.
- Antioxidant-rich beverages. Green tea is a good source of eye-healthy antioxidants, which serve to inhibit oxidative damage to the eyes.
- Nutritional supplements. Supplements are just that: a supplement to a healthy diet, not a replacement for good nutrition. However, sometimes we all fall short. If you can’t get adequate nutrients from diet alone, consider daily vitamin supplements containing zinc, vitamins C, E, zeaxanthin, and lutein.
- Less sugar. Sugar is known to cause inflammation for some people, which can put undue pressure on your eyes’ lenses. But that’s not the only way sugar wreaks havoc on vision. With consistent over-consumption of sugary and starchy foods, diabetes can develop. Then, in some cases this can lead to diabetic retinopathy, which can cause blindness.
Fresh analysis of eye research data published in the International Journal of Ophthalmology has uncovered evidence of a lowered risk for age-related cataracts (ARC) in people who exercise. According to the analysis, an individual’s risk of cataracts is decreased by 2 percent for every hour of daily walking, running, or cycling.
Exercise reduces cell damage in the eye and improves cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, which is believed to reduce oxidative damage in the eyes. Exercise also increases circulation, keeping the blood vessels in the eyes and body functioning well.
So, hit the trail and reap all sorts of benefits from getting the blood pumping for a while. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days.
3) Avoid dry eyes
Dry eyes, either from a lack of lubricating tears or the rapid dissipation of tears – can be temporary or chronic, but they are always uncomfortable. The condition can cause an itchy, scratchy feeling, redness, light sensitivity, and blurred vision.
Some of the easiest ways to improve dry eyes naturally are to drink plenty of fluids and avoid alcohol and antihistamines that are known to dehydrate the body and dry mucus membranes.
Avoid having a fan directly on your face and consider wearing a sleep mask at night to keep your eyes fully closed during slumber. If dry eye is chronic for you, ask your eye doctor about treatments such as lubricating eye drops or punctual plugs to help you retain tears. You can also reduce irritating dry eye with the next few tips.
4) Get more sleep
Adequate sleep is necessary to let your whole body recharge; without it, your eyes can get dry and fatigued. Those with sleep apnea should be extra diligent about making time for shut-eye because it is considered a risk factor for glaucoma. If you use a CPAP machine for sleep apnea, make sure to get a good mask seal to ensure that leaking air doesn’t blow into your eyes.
5) Limit screen time
Long hours in front of a TV or computer causes eye strain and dries out the eyes. The truth is we “forget” to blink! To reduce the resulting dry eye, make a point of blinking as often as possible: coordinate blinking with certain punctuation or, perhaps, every time you see or hear a word with the letter E.
Give yourself a short window of time each day to use the computer, watch television, and then take a break.
If you can’t tune out completely, lower the screen brightness to a comfortable level, lower the screen itself below eye level so you can view it without opening eyes wide and don blue light blocking glasses for good measure. And, of course, look away once in a while. The 20/20/20 rule helps Every 20 minutes, fix your gaze on something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
6) Don’t smoke
Smoking or being around second-hand smoke not only dries out our natural tears but also ages every system of the body prematurely. Smokers are at greater risk for age-related macular degeneration and cataracts, two of the leading causes of vision loss and blindness in the United States. Talk to your doctor about smoking-cessation programs to help you kick the habit.
7) Wash your hands
Wash them a lot. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), proper handwashing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of infectious disease.
Wash before and after touching your face, preparing or eating a meal, caring for a sick person, using the restroom, touching handrails, carts, and other public space.
You should also wash up after blowing your nose, taking out the trash or cleaning an area of your home, after touching pets, and any time your hands look dirty. Contact lens wearers will also need to wash before and after inserting and removing contacts.
Tips for proper hand-washing:
- Wash hands for at least 20 seconds to kill germs. That’s about the time it takes to sing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star.”
- Use plenty of soap and warm water and wash the palms between the fingers, fingertips, thumbs, wrists, and your hands’ backs.
- Remember to scrub your fingertips against your hands’ palm to work lose any contaminants hiding under your fingernails.
8) Shade your eyes from the sun
Just like skin, eyes are also vulnerable to the effects of sun exposure. Repeated or prolonged exposure to ultraviolet (UV) light increases the risk of eye cancers, cataracts, growths on the eye, and photokeratitis (snow blindness), among other eye conditions.
So, use eye protection every time you step outdoors, including UV-blocking sunglasses and/or a wide-brimmed hat with SPF protection. Your ophthalmologist may be able to recommend a reliable brand of eye protection.
9) Research family health history
Many people with age-related macular degeneration or glaucoma inherited the propensity for these eye diseases from their ancestors. Several eye problems are caused or strongly influenced by our genetics.
If you know your family’s medical and health histories, you can be aware of the conditions for which you are most at risk. That means you can take early steps to help prevent them, catch them in the early stages, and treat them more successfully.
10) Schedule regular eye exams
Finally, our last tips for healthier eyes are to consider this your “ounce of prevention” to stave off the “pound of cure.” There are lots of reasons to get your eyes checked every year. But, a dilated eye exam is the most critical to catch diagnoses and treat vision problems that may adversely affect your quality of life.
Technology is continually changing for the better, so don’t consider medical advice you received years ago to be the last word on your eyesight. Touch base with your eye doctor annually to take full advantage of the latest advances in eye care techniques and technologies.
These 10 tips for healthier eyes represent smart and easy ways to help you preserve optimal vision and enjoy a higher quality of life.