Eat your carrots. Wear a visor or hat. Try lutein and zinc? What about bilberry? Eye health is vital. So how do you protect your vision?
If you haven’t had an eye exam lately, that’s essential. Many eye problems, such as glaucoma, progress slowly — with vision loss unnoticed until the disease is advanced.
In addition to having regular eye exams, changing some habits and improving your diet can enhance your chance of maintaining good eyesight well into advanced age. But it’s not a slam dunk. Millions of Americans have a visual impairment; many have chronic, age-related diseases such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts, and retinopathy.
Since 2000, rates of diabetic retinopathy have risen 89 percent — driven by an increase in diabetes, with 8 million people over 40 now showing signs of it. Some 2 million Americans 50 and older are affected by macular degeneration. Cataracts and glaucoma are also on the rise in people over 40. At the same time, funding for research into these diseases has been cut dramatically.
Taking care of your own eye health has never been more important. These tips from 500 Time-Tested Home Remedies and the Science Behind Them will help you do just that:
1. Exercise more frequently
Regular physical activity helps you stave off cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes— two risk factors for chronic eye disease.
2. Keep Your Weight in a Healthy Zone
Being overweight or obese increases inflammation and elevates the risk of high blood pressure, arterial disease, and diabetes — all enemies of the eye.
3. Wear Sunglasses
Ultraviolet light damages the eyes. The reflective power of snow, sand, and water magnifies the effects. And yes, UV penetrates clouds. Sunglasses should block 99 to 100 percent of UVA and UVS (two bands of ultraviolet light). A hat helps, too.
4. Manage Your Blood Glucose
High blood sugar contributes to cataracts and damages small arteries, including the delicate blood vessels in the retina, leading to diabetic retinopathy.
5. Avoid Tobacco Smoke
Smoking generates free radicals (chemicals that react with membranes and genetic material to destroy cells and tissues), damages the eyes, and escalates the risk of arterial disease.
6. Drink a Glass or Two of Green Tea Every Day
Extracts in green tea protect against diabetes and heart disease and defend against damage to the retina and lens (where cataracts form).
7. Try an Eye-Protective Diet
A varied, colorful, plant-based diet keeps eyes healthy. Plants provide fiber that slows absorption of cholesterol and sugar. And they’re rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory chemicals. Many blue-, purple-, and ruby-colored berries (bilberries, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, and more) are potent antioxidants and blood-vessel strengtheners. A large trial called the Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that a higher intake of antioxidants, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids (the type found in fish) may decrease the risk of developing macular degeneration in those at high genetic risk.
In addition to following these guidelines, be sure to wear safety glasses when working with tools or participating in active sports to help prevent eye injuries that potentially could cause permanent vision loss.
It's true that following these steps is no guarantee of perfect vision throughout your lifetime. But maintaining a healthy lifestyle and having regular eye exams will certainly decrease your risk of developing a sight-stealing eye problem that otherwise might have been prevented.