Your eye health might be something you don’t think about until it fails. Even if you have 20/20 visual acuity now, you’ll likely experience age-related vision changes around age 40. And the risk for vision-threatening eye conditions increases with age.
Vision is a vital part of day-to-day life, so you should do all you can to protect it. Getting routine comprehensive eye exams is an important part of keeping your eyes healthy.
You can also do many things at home to reduce the risk of vision loss and naturally improve eyesight. The best ways to protect your vision include:
1. Get Regular Eye Exams
Regular checkups are essential for maintaining good health. This is as true for your eyes as any other body part.
Getting routine dilated eye exams is one of the best ways to protect your eye health. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect eye diseases in their earliest stages when they’re easiest to treat.
The National Eye Institute recommends a dilated exam every 1 to 2 years for people who are:
- Over age 60
- African American and over age 40
- Have a family history of glaucoma
Your eye doctor can tell you how frequently you need an exam based on your medical history. People with diabetes or high blood pressure may need more frequent exams.
2. Learn Your Hereditary Risk Factors for Ocular Disease
Some eye health issues are hereditary, but that doesn’t mean you are destined to develop these problems. Knowing that you have an elevated risk for certain eye conditions can help you take precautions.
Some of the most common eye health problems that run in families include:
- Strabismus (eye turn)
- Amblyopia (lazy eye)
- Optic atrophy
- Retinal degeneration
- Age-related macular degeneration
Make sure to tell your eye doctor about any eye diseases your parents or grandparents have had.
3. Maintain a Healthy Diet
What you eat is a major factor in your health. Studies show that a diet rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals reduces the risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other eye diseases.1-3
If you are looking for foods to add to your diet that help with eye health, consider eating more:2
- Orange-colored fruits and vegetables. Carrots, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, and apricots are all great sources of eye-healthy vitamin A.
- Veggies and fruits rich in vitamin C. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and grapefruit are all high in vitamin C. Other great sources include red bell peppers, strawberries, tomatoes, and peaches.
- Foods rich in vitamin E. Such as almonds, avocadoes, and sunflower seeds.
- Leafy green vegetables. Kale, spinach, broccoli, and collards are high in eye-protecting carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Eggs. Another great source of carotenoids.
- Cold-water fish. Salmon, sardines, halibut, tuna, and trout are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which may reduce the risk of eye diseases.4-6
- Zinc. Retina-protecting zinc is found in all kinds of beans. Other great sources include lean red meat and poultry and oysters.
As you add more vision-healthy nutrients to your balanced diet, it’s important to reduce the amount of saturated fat and processed foods you eat.
4. Use Vitamins and Nutritional Supplements
Even if you eat healthy foods, you might fall short of the recommended essential nutrients. Taking vitamin supplements can boost eye health by filling in nutrient gaps.
Research shows that the following nutritional supplements can help prevent eye diseases and vision issues:1-6
- Omega-3 fatty acids
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin
Many supplements contain a combination of vitamins, minerals, and essential fatty acids. Talk to your doctor about the recommended dosage for any eye supplements you may take.
5. Exercise Regularly
Regular exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health, including your eye health. Maintaining a healthy weight reduces your risk for type 2 diabetes, one of the biggest threats to vision health.10
Diabetes increases your risk for many vision problems, including:
Good physical fitness leads to healthy blood sugar levels, which helps prevent chronic health conditions like diabetes.
6. Do Not Smoke or Quit Smoking
Most people know smoking is bad for the heart and lungs. A lesser-known fact is that tobacco smoke is also harmful to your vision and eye health.9
Smoking is a major risk factor for many eye problems, including:
- Age-related macular degeneration
- Diabetic retinopathy
- Dry eye
- Optic nerve problems
- Eye inflammation (uveitis)
- Bulging eyes (Graves’ disease)
Quitting smoking can improve the health of others, as well. Smoking during pregnancy can cause the baby to develop eye problems that lead to permanent vision loss.
Studies show that toddlers and children exposed to secondhand smoke show signs of eye damage as early as age 6.9
7. Manage Chronic Health Conditions
Diabetes is one of many chronic conditions that can threaten your eyesight. Health problems linked to chronic inflammation can affect your vision. These include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Poor blood flow due to unhealthy cholesterol (this can cause xantheelasma)
Managing chronic health conditions may reduce the risk for complications that damage your eyes.
8. Use Protective Eyewear (Including Sunglasses)
Sunglasses are about more than just style. They offer protection from the sun’s harmful UVA and UVB rays. Make sure you invest in sunglasses that fit properly and offer the maximum UV 400 protection.
Wearing goggles or other protective eyewear is essential during activities that may lead to an eye injury. Use appropriate eyewear when working with chemicals, wood, or metal shards.
9. Rest Your Eyes (Use the 20-20-20 Rule)
Resting your eyes is essential to avoid digital eye strain and fatigue. Unfortunately, this has become more challenging as technology has developed.
Most people spend a significant amount of time each day looking at screens. You can reduce the risk of eye strain by following the 20-20-20 rule:
- Every 20 minutes, stop staring at your computer
- Focus on something 20 feet away
- Look at the object for 20 seconds
10. Keep Your Hands and Contact Lenses Clean
Contact lenses come into direct contact with your eyes. This means any bacteria or contaminants on them also touch your eyes.
Make sure you are cleaning your contact lenses frequently and following the directions provided on your preferred lens cleaning solution. Make sure your hands are clean when you insert or remove contact lenses and any other time you touch your eye.
Maintaining healthy eyes and good overall health are vital for your eyesight. Getting regular eye exams—including dilated exams—is important, but there are many ways to improve eyesight naturally.
Eating a balanced diet rich in leafy vegetables, colorful fruits, nuts, seeds, and cold-water fish gives your eyes the nutrients they need to function well and resist disease. Nutritional supplements can help boost your intake of essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
Other eyesight-improving habits include staying physically fit, using protective eyewear, and resting your eyes.
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