Eating nutritious food helps give your body the energy it needs. Exercise helps build and maintain strength and cardio function. Have you considered how the little choices you make every day impact your eye health?
Understanding eye health
The eyes are complex but amazing organs that help you see the world. Their health often goes overlooked, yet it is important to maintain good vision now and in the future.
Eye health goes beyond having 20/20 vision. Eye health includes all aspects of the eye, like the anatomy, risk of developing a detrimental eye condition such as glaucoma or cataracts, visual acuity, eye functionality, eye comfort, and more.
Eye doctors specialize in the care of eye health. They are an important part of detecting eye disorders early, treating them, and maintaining good eye health. However, seeing an eye doctor regularly is just one aspect of taking care of your vision.
Lifestyle choices and their effects on eye health
From the foods you consume to the activities you engage in, your lifestyle plays a pivotal role in determining the clarity of your sight and the longevity of your eye health.
- Diet and nutrition: Your eyes need a variety of nutrients and vitamins to remain functional and healthy. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), “Researchers have linked eye-friendly nutrients, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, to reducing the risk of certain serious eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.”
- Lutein and zeaxanthin have been shown to reduce the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts. Fill your plate with leafy greens, broccoli, corn, persimmons, and other colorful fruits and vegetables to reap their benefits.
- Vitamin C can help reduce the risk of developing cataracts, slow the progress of age-related macular degeneration, and help prevent visual acuity loss. Fruits like oranges, strawberries, tomatoes, and peppers are all good sources of vitamin C.
- Vitamin E helps protect cells in the eye against free radicals that can break down healthy tissues. Be sure to include nuts, wheat germ, and sweet potatoes to add vitamin E to your diet.
- Zinc is a mineral that helps with “bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in the eyes.” A deficiency in zinc has been linked to poor vision at night and in the dark and cataracts. Red meat, shellfish, nuts, and seeds are all great sources of the mineral.
- Exercise and physical activity: Studies have shown that regular exercise may reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and other eye conditions.
The reasons behind this association aren’t fully understood, however, a study from the Scientific Journal of The Royal College of Ophthalmologists suggests that “Physical inactivity has been associated with the development of precursors for AMD in the form of macular drusen and may facilitate the progression of vision loss and AMD severity through inflammation and endothelial dysfunction.” Endothelial dysfunction occurs when the cells that make up the transparent front part of your eye, called the corneal endothelial cells, are lost, resulting in vision loss.
Essentially, the study suggests that being inactive may increase the risk of developing macular drusen, or lipid and protein deposits under your retina. Having drusen isn’t always detrimental to your vision, but having many small deposits or deposits that are larger in size may increase your risk of developing AMD.
- Smoking: If you smoke cigarettes, quitting may be the best thing you can do to maintain and improve your eye health. Smokers are up to four times as likely to develop AMD and up to two to three times more likely to develop cataracts compared to non-smokers.
- Screen time and eye strain: On average, Americans spend roughly seven hours each day looking at a screen. However, this number may increase if your job requires you to be on a screen. This screen time can have negative side effects on your eye health. According to the AOA, excessive screen time can lead to digital eyestrain, sometimes referred to as Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
Guidance from the AOA says “CVS can cause dry eyes, headaches, neck and shoulder pain, blurry vision, and eye discomfort. Symptoms tend to be temporary, but the longer you spend in front of a computer, the longer it takes for these symptoms to go away.”
If you’re on a screen consistently, protect your eye health by taking breaks regularly to let your eyes rest.
For more tips on reducing the effects of digital eyestrain, check out Eye Health Guidance for Screen Time from the AOA.
Eye exams are vital for good eye health
Regular comprehensive eye exams are a critical part of having good eye health. Comprehensive exams can help detect and treat eye diseases early, keep tabs on changes in your vision, and uncover medical conditions such as diabetes, brain tumors, heart disease, high blood pressure, and more. The AOA recommends adult patients aged 18 to 64 have an eye exam at least every two years and patients aged 65 and older have an eye exam every year.
Children also benefit from eye exams. The AOA recommends that children aged three to five have at least one exam in that period and children aged six to 17 have a comprehensive eye exam every year.
Pro tip: Having vision insurance makes it easy to protect your eye health with regular comprehensive eye exams. Learn more about Hawaii Dental Service vision insurance plans here.