Most people don’t think about their eye health until they start having problems with their vision. But just like the rest of your body, your eyes need regular care to stay in good shape.
Vision problems mainly affect people older than 40. Recent estimates put the number of Americans with vision problems at around 4.2 million. While younger people are less likely to have vision problems, they’re not immune—especially as more of us are spending more time looking at screens.
Don’t make the mistake of going for easy fixes when it comes to your vision. For instance, trekking to the drugstore every time you have eye strain for eye drops might give you temporary relief, but it won’t fix the underlying problem
The goal for optimal eye health is to keep your eyes free from disease and other problems so you can see clearly and enjoy a lifetime of good vision. Here are six steps that will help you do just that.
Step 1: Eat Right for Your Eyes
While carrots and their Vitamin A gets the most attention, other foods and nutrients are important too. Pay attention to your diet to make sure you’re getting enough of the following eye-friendly nutrients:
- Omega-3 fatty acids – These healthy fats can help prevent dry eye and macular degeneration. Good sources include cold-water fish such as salmon, tuna, and sardines; flaxseed; and walnuts.
- Lutein – You can find this nutrient in leafy green vegetables like spinach, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Scientists believe lutein helps fight against macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Vitamin C – This nutrient helps keep the blood vessels in your eyes healthy. Citrus fruits, strawberries, tomatoes, and broccoli are all good sources of vitamin C.
Make a proper diet part of your daily routine, like oil cleansing your face at night or taking a daily supplement. That way, you’re more likely to stick with it and get the benefits in the long run
Step 2: Give Your Eyes a Break
If you work at a computer all day, you’re probably no stranger to eye strain. Staring at a screen all day can cause dry eyes, fatigue, and even headaches. To protect your eyes, take breaks every 20 minutes or so to look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds—this is called the “20-20-20” rule.
For those whose jobs don’t allow for regular breaks, try this simple exercise: Every few minutes, look up from your work and focus on something in the distance for about 10 seconds. Then close your eyes for a few seconds before going back to work.
You should also make sure to blink often when you’re working at a computer. Blinking helps keep your eyes lubricated and prevents dry eyes.
Step 3: Quit Smoking
Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health—and that includes your eye health. Smoking increases your risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and other vision problems. This is on top of all the other health problems smoking causes, such as lung cancer and heart disease.
We know that quitting a smoking habit is one of the hardest things to do. But there are plenty of resources out there to help you, including nicotine replacement therapy and counseling.
Step 4: Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses aren’t just a fashion statement. They also play an important role in protecting your eyes from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much exposure to UV light can damage the retina, the sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. This damage can lead to cataracts, macular degeneration, or a pterygium—colloquially known as “surfer’s eye.”
When choosing sunglasses, look for ones that block out 99% to 100% of both UVA and UVB rays. Polarized lenses can also help reduce glare. For people who work long hours in front of a computer, you can look into blue-light-blocking lenses. The science on this isn’t conclusive yet, but there are lots of anecdotal reports of blue-light-blocking glasses helping people with eye fatigue and dry eyes.
Step 5: Know Your Family History
Your family history can play a role in your risk for certain eye diseases. For instance, if your parents or grandparents have glaucoma, you may be at a higher risk for the disease.
By understanding your family history, you can work with your doctor to come up with a plan to protect your eyesight. This may include more frequent eye exams or taking steps to reduce your risk factors for certain eye diseases.
Step 6: Get Regular Eye Exams
Even if you don’t have any vision problems, it’s important to get your eyes checked regularly. Twice a year is a general recommendation, but people at a higher risk for vision problems may need to go more often.
During an eye exam, your doctor will check for signs of cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, and other eye problems. Early detection and treatment of these conditions are important to preserving your vision.
It’s no coincidence that blindness is one of the most common fears people have. Your eyesight is a precious commodity, so take steps to protect it. By following these six tips, you can keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of vision problems.
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