Your eyes work really hard. They stare at screens most of the day, keep you focused on the highway when you’re driving, and make out what’s on the menu in a darkened restaurant. While you may not think about it often, good vision and eye health contribute to the quality of your life.
The reality is that when it comes to your eyesight, there are things that you just can’t control. For example, as you age, the fine print gets blurrier and the magnification on your cheaters gets larger. That said, there are also a number of habits that you can cultivate to support the health of your eyes and help to prevent or slow the progression of eye diseases. Here are some of the ways that you can help keep your eyes as healthy as possible:
1. Cultivate habits that are kind to your eyes.
Long hours of reading or in front of a screen can cause fatigue and weaken your vision. When you’re reading for long periods, take frequent breaks every hour or so. Also, make sure you have enough light to avoid eye strain, especially when you’re reading.
2. Protect your eyes.
Exposure to strong lights, sunlight, and UV rays can damage your eyes over time. Use sunglasses that block the sun’s UV rays, wear eye protection when you’re engaged in sports, and use protective goggles when you’re doing home projects or working with power tools. If you spend most of your days in front of a screen, you can get computer glasses that block blue light. They help cut the glare, increase visual contrast, and enhance the images on the screen. Many computer screens also have an option to turn down the blue light, which can also help you sleep better.
3. Get regular eye exams.
If you’re under 40, your eyes should be checked every two to four years; over 40, every two years. If you have an eye condition or are noticing vision changes, have your eyes examined yearly. Frequent exams translate into detecting problems early.
4. Eat to nourish your eyes.
Scientists have found that leafy greens and yellow vegetables can improve the health of your eyes and decrease your risk for macular degeneration and cataracts. These vegetables are high in lutein, a vitamin related to vitamin A. Other foods that are good for your eyes include nuts, beans, citrus fruit, oily fish, and eggs. If you don’t think you’re getting enough of these foods, you can also supplement with vitamins formulated specifically for eye health.
5. Use reading glasses if you need them.
Age-related loss of reading vision is called presbyopia and is extremely common in people over age 40. Reading glasses (lovingly called cheaters) can help for close-up work because they magnify the fine print. If you need reading glasses, make sure you have the right level for your eyes. Going up to a stronger level doesn’t make your eyes any weaker, but not using a strong enough magnification can contribute to eye strain.
6. Keep your stress in check.
Scientists have found that unmanaged stress weakens your immune system and accelerates aging. Furthermore, high levels of stress can raise your blood pressure, all of which put an additional strain on your eyes. The bottom line is that doing whatever it takes—meditation, yoga, or gardening—to relieve your stress not only improves your health, but also supports the health of your eyes.
7. Make sure you’re getting enough sleep.
Your body heals and regenerates itself when you sleep, and your eyes are no exception. There’s nothing worse than that gritty, burning feeling in your eyes when you haven’t gotten enough rest.
Typically, your vision isn’t on your radar unless you begin to have problems with your eyes. A little preventative care, however, can go a long way in keeping eye issues at bay. By taking these few steps, you can safeguard your vision and keep your eyes healthy for years to come.
Lynn Jaffee is a licensed acupuncturist and the author of “Simple Steps: The Chinese Way to Better Health.” This article was originally published on AcupunctureTwinCities.com.