More than half of the people responding to a 2012 survey from the American Optometric Association said they valued their eyesight more than their memory or ability to walk. In honor of Save Your Vision Month, here are some everyday things you can control to help “save your vision.”
1. Enjoy a cup of tea – Green tea contains antioxidants, like vitamins C and E, lutein, and zeaxanthin that help protect against AMD and cataracts. It is it hydrating, helping you produce tears.
2. Take time to blink – On an average you blink about 15 – 20 times a minute. However, that rate drops by half when viewing text on a screen. Try using the 20/20/20 rule when staring at a screen: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds so you can blink naturally and give your eyes time to relax.
3. Wear sunglasses and a hat – Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays can deteriorate vision over time, leading to cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). The American Optometric Association recommends sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of UVA and UVB radiation and that screen out 75 – 90% of visible light. And if you plan to spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s a good idea to get sunglasses with lenses that are polarized, which means that they’ve been treated to reduce glare. Since the sun doesn’t just affect your eyes from the front, try wearing a large brimmed hat to further protect your eyes.
4. Increase the seafood in your diet – Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to bolster heart and brain health, as well as decrease your risk of eye disease. According to a study published in the 2011 Archives of Ophthalmology, women who ate canned tuna and dark-fish meat (mackerel, salmon, sardines, bluefish, swordfish) just once a week reduced their risk for AMD by 42%, as opposed to people that ate the same fish less than once a month.
5. Eat a rainbow – Eating a full rainbow of fruits and vegetables regularly helps give your body the nutrients it needs. In addition to fiber, vitamins and minerals, naturally colored foods contain what are known as phytochemicals, which are disease-fighting substances that also give fruits and vegetable their array of colors. Star nutrients are lutein and zeaxanthin—pigments found in such foods as dark, leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, peas, and Brussels sprouts. Also important are antioxidants found in red foods such as strawberries, cherries, red peppers and raspberries, Orange foods have beta-carotene and include carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes and yams.
6. Use digital screens at a safe distance – The brightness and glare from computers, tablets, smartphones and televisions can lead to eyestrain after prolonged use. Recent studies have also shown ill-effects from the UV rays from these devices. Symptoms can include headaches, blurred vision, dry or red eyes and difficulty refocusing. Experts recommend keeping the computer screen at least an arm’s length away and that you hold a handheld device at least 16 inches from your eyes.
7. Contact lens solutions serve a purpose – While approximately 85% of contact lens wearers claim that they’re caring for their lenses properly, only 2% are according to a study out of Texas. The most harmful but common problem is moistening contacts with saliva instead of saline solution.
8. Make-up makeover – Replace tubes of mascara after three months, as it is a breeding ground for bacteria. Sharpen liner pencils regularly and while it is okay to line the base of your lashes, using the liner inside the lash line can block oil glands. Replace eye shadows yearly and don’t share your eye cosmetics.
9. Use protective goggles – According to a 2008 study from the American Academy of Ophthalmology and the American Society of Ocular Trauma, of the 2.5 million eye injuries in the US annually, nearly half happen at home. Sports activities are another cause of eye injuries, from contact sports to sports that use balls that could catch you unaware. When snowboarding or skiing remember to protect your eyes from the sun and wind with tinted goggles that have UV protection.
10. Have a yearly eye exam – Even if you don’t wear corrective lenses, adults should get a comprehensive eye exam (which includes dilating your pupils with drops) by age 40. After that a yearly eye exam is recommended to keep your eyes healthy and catch any changes in your eyes that may be indicators of eye disease. If you have a family history of glaucoma or age-related macular degeneration, or you have diabetes, you are at a higher risk for vision-related issues and your doctor may elect to see you more often. If you have symptoms such as persistent pain inside or behind your eyes, redness, or gradual loss of vision, make an appointment with your doctor immediately.