Our eyesight is important not only for practical reasons, but also because of the major quality-of-life difference that good eyesight can make. Problems such as glaucoma, macular degeneration and cataracts are serious concerns, but by staying on top of your eye health, you may be able to reduce your risk factors for these kinds of age-related vision problems.
Everyone’s eyesight changes as they age, but good health habits help mitigate your risk. Here are six natural ways to care for your eyes and help protect against not only age-related vision disorders, but also the uncomfortable side effects of poor eye health (such as headaches, dizziness and problems with focus).
CONSUME VITAMIN A
We’ve been told time and time again that carrots are good for our vision, but they’re not the only food source that’s good for our eyesight. Our eyes need vitamin A, a vitamin which is found largely in animal proteins. However, vitamin A can also be manufactured by our own bodies from beta carotene, a precursor to vitamin A found in plant foods. If you’re a meat eater, some of the best sources of vitamin A include liver, fish and natural cheeses, but if you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can consume plant-based foods rich in beta carotene, such as carrots, sweet potatoes, kale and spinach, to boost your eye health.
REMEMBER TO BLINK
According to Real Simple, humans naturally blink 15 to 20 times per minute — but when we’re looking at screens, as many of us do all day for work, we blink less frequently, usually only 7 to 10 times per minute.
“Blinking is important because the upper eyelid spreads tears over the front of the eye, or cornea, just like a windshield wiper works,” Mark Rosenfield, professor of clinical education at the State University of New York College of Optometry, told Real Simple. “If you don’t do it enough, the cornea can dry out and feel irritated.”
TAKE SCREEN BREAKS
Speaking of looking at screens, I don’t have to tell you that looking at screens all day can irritate the eyes. In addition to the problem of focusing so long on something that’s only inches away from your face, there’s also the problem of blue light, which can offset hormonal responses, making it difficult to sleep.
Try to take breaks from looking at screens. If you have to be on a screen all day long, consider making an investment in blue light-blocking glasses as well as an anti-glare filter.
MANAGE YOUR BLOOD SUGAR
Diabetes is one of the major risk factors for vision problems, so it’s important to keep your blood sugar levels healthy if you want to avoid eye problems. If you don’t currently have diabetes, one of the best ways to do this is to maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and avoid over-consuming foods that are high on the glycemic index, such as refined carbohydrates.
Just like our skin, our eyes can be severely damaged by UV rays. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses that helps filter out both UVA and UVB rays. Your eyes will thank you for it.
DON’T NEGLECT YOUR EYE EXAMS
Finally, no amount of healthy lifestyle habits can prevent vision problems completely. It’s important not to neglect your eye exams. Most optometrists recommend getting a check up every year. The best way to prevent any vision problems that do arise from worsening is to get the care you need as quickly as possible.