From the moment you wake up to the moment you go to sleep, your eyes play a crucial role in your ability to navigate the world. When you consider that over 80 percent of the information you take in from the world is through your eyes, it becomes clear just how important these sensory organs are. Just like any other organ in your body, the health of your eyes is greatly affected by how you treat and care for them. The importance of developing healthy habits to support your eyes cannot be understated. Taking action now can go a long way in reducing your risk of vision problems and eye diseases as you age. Here are nine tips for optimal eye health that you can start applying today.
1. Eat a nutritious diet
We all know that eating a healthy diet is important, but did you know that what you eat can have a significant effect on the health of your eyes? Studies show that a number of nutrients can help protect your vision and reduce the risk of age-related eye diseases. Here are the most important vitamins and foods for eye health:
- Vitamin A: This vitamin is essential in the visual system in every layer. It helps protect the cornea, the clear covering to the colored part of your eye, as well as the function of your retina. In fact, a deficiency can cause night blindness, and eventually, total blindness. Foods high in vitamin A include sweet potatoes, leafy green vegetables, carrots, and fish high in omega 3’s such salmon, sardines, and halibut.
- Vitamin C: This vitamin lowers the risk of developing cataracts. Vitamin C is found in many fruits and vegetables including grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, and broccoli.
- Vitamin E: Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant that helps protect your cells, including your eye cells, from free radical damage. Studies show that vitamin E may help slow vision damage and age-related macular degeneration. Load up on vitamin E by eating nuts, seeds, avocado, and plant oils.
- Lutein: Found in high quantities in leafy green vegetables, lutein filters harmful blue light that enters the eyes, limiting damage to the retina.
2. Protect your eyes from the sun
A stylish pair of sunglasses are much more than just a fashion accessory. They help protect your eyes from the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) light. Choose a pair that has both UVA and UVB protection and make an effort to always wear them when you’re outdoors, even if it’s cloudy. On really sunny days, throw on a hat with a brim to block UV radiation that sneaks around the sides of your sunglasses.
3. Use blue light blocking glasses
In today’s modern world, many people are looking at digital devices, such as cell phones, tablets, and computers, for hours each day. These devices expose your eyes to high levels of blue light, which is known to cause eye strain, headaches, and disruptions in your body’s sleep cycle. To counter these harmful effects and promote vision health, wear blue light blocking glasses when using your devices. These glasses are designed to filter out the blue-violet rays that are emitted from digital screens, making it possible to remain engaged in your digital work without the side effects of blue light affecting your eyes.
4. Follow the 20/20/20 rule
When staring at digital screens for long periods of time, it’s also very important to regularly look away from the screen to reduce eye strain. Follow the 20/20/20 rule—every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This helps your eyes relax and encourages you to blink, which lubricates your eyes.
5. Wash your hands
What does washing your hands have to do with eye health? More than you think! Many common vision-related diseases can be spread by touching the area around your eyes (or your eyes directly) with unwashed hands. Pink eye, staph, and even chlamydia and gonorrhea can pass from your hands to your eyes, potentially causing long-term vision damage. To reduce your risk, frequently wash your hands and try to avoid touching anywhere near your eyes, especially if you haven’t washed your hands recently.
6. Move your body
Along with increasing blood circulation to your eyes, exercise can help reduce your risk of diseases and conditions that can cause eye health or vision problems, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. Choose a heart-pumping activity that you enjoy and try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of exercise into your daily routine.
7. Quit smoking (or never start)
Smoking is a dangerous habit for your whole body, including your eyes. Research shows that smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome, vision loss, and blindness. People who smoke a pack of cigarettes or more a day double their likelihood of developing macular degeneration, an eye disease that causes vision loss. If you smoke, start taking steps to quit now, and if you don’t smoke, definitely don’t start!
8. Get adequate sleep
Skimping on your sleep is bound to affect the health of your eyes. Getting adequate Z’s allows your eyes to rest, reducing strain and problems like dry eye. Adults should aim to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you need to go to bed earlier, use a white noise machine, or invest in black-out curtains to achieve that, by all means, do—your eyes will thank you.
9. Visit your eye doctor regularly
Just like you get regular checkups with your general medical doctor, you should also make a visit to an eye doctor part of your annual preventative care routine. With a comprehensive eye exam, your eye doctor can check your vision and detect early signs of eye disease that might not be causing you noticeable symptoms yet. This can allow conditions to be treated early, minimizing or slowing vision loss and other symptoms.
The bottom line
Ultimately, supporting the health of your eyes is the same as supporting any other part of your body—it all boils down to living a healthy, balanced lifestyle. Whether your eyes are bothering you now or not, consider adopting the above-mentioned tips as habits in your life. These steps might seem small, but they can make a big impact when it comes to protecting your eyes and helping you see the world clearly.