By Randi Mann, WHNP-BC, NCMP, APNP
How are your eyes doing? From endless hours spent in front of computers to scrolling through smartphones, our eyes are subjected to constant strain and exposure to blue light, which can have long-term effects on our vision.
Vision changes a lot throughout your lifetime. It may have been perfect when you were a child, but with age, perhaps things have gotten blurrier. Or maybe you’re experiencing redness and dry eyes? These common issues can be signs that our eyes need a little extra care and attention. While various factors can impact eye health, there are also natural approaches that can support and promote optimal vision.
Let’s dive in!
Progressive vision loss can occur due to many reasons:
- The natural aging-process. As time goes on, most of us develop a condition called presbyopia: the gradual loss of our eyes’ ability to focus on objects up close. This tends to affect people around age 40, and glasses and contact lenses are often helpful.
- Cataracts. This age-related condition causes cloudy patches to develop in the clear lens of the eye, stopping light from reaching through to the back of the eye and leading to blurred or misty vision.
- Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD). This is one of the leading causes of vision loss in people over 50. It tends to develop over time and causes blurring of our central vision, leading to difficulty reading, using a computer, or even watching television.
- Eye strain & screen use. If you spend significant portions of time looking at a screen up close, your eyes become accustomed to focusing like this and it becomes more difficult for them to adjust and focus on objects in the distance.
- Genetics. Some people are more likely to develop certain eye conditions, such as glaucoma or even short-sightedness. It is important to understand your family’s eye health history and know what signs to look out for.
- A bad diet, smoking, or excessive alcohol consumption can all affect your vision. Having overall good health can prevent your eyesight from getting worse sooner than it might otherwise. Eating a balanced diet is key!
If you feel as though your eyesight has gotten worse suddenly for no apparent reason, seek professional advice from your healthcare provider and optician.
If you would like to learn more about maintaining good eye health, continue reading! There are many simple changes you can make that will benefit your eyes.
Proper nutrition is beneficial not only for your eyes but for the whole body and mind.
Studies have found that certain vitamins and minerals found in food may play a role in preventing two common vision problems: cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
To support optimal eye health, you’ll want to focus on foods high in dietary antioxidant vitamins and minerals (A, C, and E, and the mineral zinc), which may help prevent the progression of macular degeneration. These include:
- Citrus fruits
- Red Peppers
- Red meat
Foods that contain lutein and zeaxanthin are also important, as these are compounds found in the retina that support its health. They protect the cells in the macular area by absorbing excess blue and ultraviolet light, along with neutralizing free radicals. You can find lutein and zeaxanthin in:
- Brussel sprouts
Omega-3 fatty acids have also been found to contribute to retinal health. Their anti-inflammatory properties help maintain the eye’s protective tear film, minimize dry eyes, and prevent cataracts. Omega-3 fatty acids are present in foods like:
Including these nutrient-rich foods in your diet may have a positive impact on your vision.
In an ideal world, we would get all of the nutrients we need from our food. However, a majority of Americans are nutrient deficient due to their diets and could benefit from supplementation. The following supplements have been found to benefit eye health:
- Lutein & zeaxanthin
- Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
- Omega 3 fatty acids.
Furthermore, the National Eye Institute has stated that the high doses of vitamins and minerals needed that show a significant change in eye health can’t be obtained from diet alone. Supplements can be an important tool for those looking to protect their vision. As always, consult with your healthcare provider and ophthalmologist before starting any new supplements, as they may interact with other medications or health conditions.
Along with diet & taking supplements, here are a few other simple ways you can support your eye health at home:
- If you live in a dry climate, use a humidifier at home to help retain moisture in the eyes.
- Don’t smoke– it damages blood vessels in the eyes and can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, and other vision problems.
- Drink plenty of water– most adults need 2 liters a day to stay hydrated.
- Change your furnace/air conditioner filters regularly to keep the air in your home clean.
- Exercise your eyes! You can challenge them with optical illusions, get them moving by rapid blinking, and increase blood circulation to the eyes by nodding your head up and down. Including even 10 minutes of eye exercises in your routine can help improve your eye health in the long term.
- Protect your eyes from ultraviolet light by wearing sunglasses when you’re outdoors and avoid looking directly into bright lights.
- Try to limit your screen time– blue light has harmful effects on the retina, especially after sunset when natural light fades. For every 20 minutes spent using a screen, look away at something that is 20 feet away from you for a total of 20 seconds to reduce eye strain.
Naturally, our eyes will age and our eyesight tends to worsen over time. However, this can be mitigated with a healthy lifestyle and diet to support our eye health. Eating a balanced and nutrient-rich diet, and ensuring eye protection against screens and sunlight can go a long way in protecting your vision in the long run. Call us if you need more guidance in supporting your eye health!
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