Our vision is highly important as it heavily influences our ability to function, keep safe, and enjoy life. Though often neglected, eyes are quite vulnerable and if injured, can cost much to repair. This niche in the medical field accounts for billions of dollars spent on treatments each year.
Much like the rest of our bodies, our eyesight requires considerable care if we are to avoid age-related conditions. As we get older, we become more likely to suffer conditions like cataracts, vision loss, and glaucoma. The situation can be even worse for those with related chronic conditions like diabetes that can lead to diabetic retinopathy.
The earlier you adopt healthy habits that will benefit eye health, the longer you can delay any deterioration in vision and other eye problems. Let's look at some of the best habits to make a part of your routine for optimal ocular health.
1. Adhere to A Healthy Eye-Friendly Diet
The foundation of good health lies in what you eat. It is from our food that we harness the necessary nutrients that are our body’s building blocks. Overall, a healthy balanced diet is what is required. If you want to focus specifically on the best diet for eye health, they boost your intake of these nutrients:
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids – The EPA and DHA in omega-3 fatty acids help to preserve eye function and prevent dry eyes. Strong intake can also help reduce the risk of developing diabetic retinopathy. It is best sourced from oily fish and supplements.
- Vitamin A – A deficiency in this vitamin can result in blindness as it is responsible for maintaining light-sensing cells in the eyes. It is one of the key vitamins for eyes that is mainly sourced from animal protein foods like meat, eggs, and dairy. It can also be sourced from certain fruits and vegetables like carrots and spinach. Carrots are considered one of the best foods for eye health thanks to their high level of beta-carotene that helps the body utilize vitamin A, lowers cholesterol, and promotes better vision.
- Vitamin C – The antioxidants in vitamin C help to protect the outermost and exposed layer of the eye from the damage of free radicals. People that have lower vitamin C levels will often develop cataracts. This vitamin is easily sourced from various citrus fruits and vegetables.
- Vitamin E – This vitamin also has an antioxidant effect that protects fatty acids from suffering damaging oxidation. Those with a deficiency in vitamin E will often suffer cataracts, retinal damage, macular degeneration, and blindness. Good sources of vitamin E include sunflower seeds, almonds, peanut butter, and cereal with wheat germ.
Also, ensure that you remain well hydrated. Dry eyes can lead to serious eye problems. To ensure good fluid levels, be sure to drink ample amounts of water.
Just as with the health of the whole body, exercise is important for eye health. Work on getting your heart rate up several times a week. This will help in regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Both these factors are key to ocular health and should be properly maintained through diet and exercise. Exercising will also aid in reducing stress. Too much stress can also hurt blood pressure and other health factors that influence your health.
It also helps to lower cholesterol levels and promotes good circulation. With a healthy supply of blood that delivers nutrients, oxygen, and moisture to the eyes, your vision health is safeguarded. So for the best results, ensure you combine a healthy diet with regular exercise.
3. Stop Smoking
Smoking causes a myriad of health problems. Long-term smokers are often vulnerable to eye problems like cataracts, macular degeneration, uveitis, and diabetic retinopathy. The habit exposes the eyes to harmful toxins, given the proximity between the eyes and mouth. These toxins often irritate the eyes, encouraging many to touch and rub their eyes. They have also been linked to the formation of cerebral lesions in the brain.
The nicotine in tobacco products tends to build up in the blood, causing the blood vessels to become inflamed and constrict. This can result in elevated blood pressure that makes sufferers more vulnerable to macular degeneration. Damaged blood vessels also increase the risk of retinal detachment. It also reduces the body’s ability to deliver nutrients and oxygen to eye cells. Smoking also increases the eyes' exposure to free radicals, whose damaging effects increase the risk of developing cataracts.
These effects can be just as bad with secondhand smoke. This means that even if you do not smoke but live or work with a smoker, you are still at risk. The risk of developing these problems will however reduce as soon as the habit is stopped and the atmosphere around you is clear of tobacco smoke.
4. Wear Eye Protection
There are many situations in which one can suffer eye injuries. This can occur at home, at work, and anywhere in between. If you are looking for how to protect your eyes, then be sure to invest in suitable eye protection. If your job or other activities expose your eyes to harmful substances, then safety goggles should always be used. Harmful substances can include chemical liquids, dust, and other flying debris. It can also apply to sporting activities where you have sharp and small projectiles like balls and arrows in use.
Most workplaces that involve exposure to harmful substances should provide protective eyewear. Always ensure that if damaged the eyewear is quickly replaced as this can compromise safety. If you spend lots of time outdoors, you also need to protect against sun damage. UV rays can be quite harmful to the eyes, even when it is cloudy. Ensure you have suitable eyewear to safeguard them.
5. Limit Screen Time
People now spend many hours a day glued to their screens. Be it computers or smartphones, this behavior change has led to a growing number of vision problems. When staring at a screen you are mainly focused on near vision. When this habit is prolonged, it can lead to the deterioration of distance vision. You may find that you are less able to focus on distant objects after extended screen time.
This is worsened by the blue light that is emitted by these screens. It causes eye strain and can increase the risk of short-sightedness. To combat this problem:
- Take Regular Breaks – Even if your work requires that you spend a lot of time on the computer, take a break several times each hour and look away from the screen. This will help train your distance vision.
- Go for A Walk – Where possible, get up and take a walk. This will provide another opportunity to focus your distance vision. It will also promote better blood circulation that is good for eye health.
- Consider Blue Block – Besides ensuring your glasses prescription is up to date, you should also consider upgrading to blue block. This is a protective measure that can be added to your lenses to help prevent damage from the blue light that comes from digital screens by limiting eye strain.
- Keep Blinking – When you keep staring at the screen, it is common to blink far less than usual. Unfortunately, this can encourage dry eyes. Try to remember to keep blinking to help reduce the problem of eyes drying out.
6. Conduct Regular Eye Screening
Prevention and early detection are always the best ways to avoid serious health problems. In much the same way you may routinely see your doctor for general health, also make a point of undergoing regular eye care screenings. This can be done by your doctor during routine check-ups. If there is cause for concern, he can then advise that you see an ophthalmologist or optometrist for better diagnosis and more detailed information on all about eyecare.
When you see the specialist, certain procedures will be followed for a comprehensive exam. This may include:
- Vision test – This is to establish any near or far-sightedness, blurry vision, or presbyopia.
- Eye pressure and optic nerve tests –To determine if there are signs of glaucoma
- Eye dilation tests – To check on the condition of the retina and optic nerves
A comprehensive family and health history will also be taken as this can strongly influence your chances of developing certain eye problems. If you have normal vision, a comprehensive eye exam should be done at least once every two years. If you have any eye-related conditions, exams should be more frequent. A good way to remind yourself of this checkup is to take advantage of the Healthy Vision Month of May.