Research shows that more than 40% of people in the U.S. need glasses. Your eyesight affects every part of your daily life, but maintaining it might be more challenging than you think.
From the screens we watch to the foods we eat, there are many habits that could either hurt or help our vision. Today, we’re sharing five simple steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy.
1. Consider Your Diet
Did you know that your diet can contribute to your eye health? There are certain vitamins and nutrients that your eyes rely on to operate at their highest capacity, and filling your plates with these foods is a smart choice.
A few of the main nutrients your eyes crave include:
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
By consuming foods that are rich in these nutrients, you can do your part to ward off age-related vision problems, including cataracts and macular degeneration. Not sure where to start?
Seafood, nuts, and seeds are high in Omega-3s while meat, dairy, and legumes are rich in zinc. For your daily lutein intake, add some dark, leafy greens to your diet, such as kale and spinach. Many fruits, including kiwi, avocado, and mango, are high in both Vitamin C and E.
An added benefit of sticking to a nutritious diet is that it can also help you maintain a healthy weight. This helps lower your risk of obesity, as well as related health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. Diabetic retinopathy is the most common cause of blindness in working-age adults, and it occurs when a spike in your blood sugar damages the blood vessels in your retina.
2. Wear Sun Protection
A great pair of sunglasses can transform your eye health. Yet, it’s important to make sure you’re wearing the right ones. You specifically need shades that will protect your eyes from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
While you shop around, look for ones that offer 99% to 100% protection from both UV-A and UV-B rays.
Accounting for up to 95% of the radiation that reaches the Earth’s surface, UVA rays can damage the part of the retina located at the back of your eye, called the macula. On the other hand, UV-B rays can damage the front part of your eyes, including the cornea and lens.
In addition, UV-B rays can also damage your skin’s superficial epidermal layers. They’re responsible for most skin reddening and sunburn and can lead to the development of skin cancer on your eyelid.
Prioritize robust protection, not style, the next time you’re shopping for a pair! Ideally, look for wraparound lenses, which will also help protect your eyes from the side.
3. Take a Screen Break
Have you ever spent a few hours staring at your laptop, only to look up and notice that your eyes burn and your vision feels blurry?
You aren’t imagining things. Looking at a screen for too long can strain your eyes. It can also leave them dry and irritated.
You tend to blink far less often when you’re transfixed by the phone or computer, which can cause your eyes to dry out. Such intense use can also leave your eyes feeling fatigued, which can lead to a host of issues including:
- Double vision
- Difficulty concentrating
You might not feel the effects immediately, or even after a few sessions. However, in time, screen use can lead to long-term vision problems. Continued exposure to blue light can damage the light-sensitive cells in your retina, which can lead to early age-related macular degeneration and even eyesight loss.
To protect your eyes, use special blue-light glasses when you know you’ll be in front of a screen for an extended period of time. It’s also smart to take frequent breaks and allow your eyes to rest. As you position your device, avoid glaring sunlight and try to keep the top of the monitor at eye level, so you can look naturally downward as you work.
4. Don’t Smoke
To build a foundation of healthy living, it’s best to avoid all types of tobacco products. Studies show that smoking can increase your risk of many different eye problems, including:
- Age-related macular degeneration (AMD)
- Dry Eye Syndrome
- Diabetic retinopathy
Scientists have found that smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. In addition, heavy smokers are up to three times as likely to get cataracts. If you currently smoke, ask your doctor for a plan that can help you stop.
5. Visit Your Eye Doctor Regularly
It’s important to take a proactive approach to your physical health. This includes visiting your doctor for regular, routine checkups before you develop an eye-related condition.
A simple eye exam is recommended for everyone, including small children. This allows your doctor to assess your vision and make recommended adjustments early on. These exams also allow your physician to uncover eye diseases that may not have any apparent symptoms initially, such as glaucoma.
When you identify a potential problem as soon as possible, treatment is often much more effective. Most eye exams include a discussion of your personal and family medical history, as well as a vision test, eye pressure test, and optic nerve test.
Most physicians can perform preventative eye exams right in their offices. You can visit our Patient Resources page to find a primary care physician near you.
Keep Your Eyes Healthy, One Step at a Time
It’s easy to take your eyesight for granted. Yet, it’s important to understand ways to gently and effectively care for your vision.
From making dietary adjustments to investing in the right sunglasses and limiting screen time, there are many ways you can keep your eyes healthy. Your physician is an essential partner in this journey, performing eye exams and sharing advice.
At Meritage Medical Network, we can connect you to more than 1,800 local physicians administering care for HMO patients in Marin, Sonoma, Napa, Solano, Fresno, and Madera counties. Visit our Enrollment page to learn more about our network!