Take a look around wherever you are right now. Perhaps you’re sitting on a porch or by a window, you notice a bird fly by, or a squirrel scurry up a tree. Maybe there’s a couple walking in the distance. Perhaps you’re looking around at a room inside your home or a common area. Which items catch your eye? What do they mean to you? How do they make you feel?
We process a great deal of the world through our eyes, so it makes sense to prioritize caring for them, even if it’s something we rarely think of when we think of maintaining good health. Creating and following some best practices—and learning what to avoid—will help you maintain healthy vision well into your senior years.
Our eyes, just like any other part of our body, require the proper fuel to function optimally. The following list of best practices will help you care for your vision. And the best news is that caring for your eyes is easy to do.
Eat for Your Eyes
Just like with your muscles, bones, or any other part of your body, nutrition habits can help or hurt your eyes. Research suggests that diets higher in certain nutrients can help you retain stronger ocular function for longer and are linked to lower risks for macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin E
- Omega-3 fatty acids like DHA and EPA
The old adage about carrots being good for your eyes is also true (the beta carotene in carrots is linked to both better eye health and slower cognitive decline). But instead of just sticking with carrots, it’s important to diversify the produce you eat to get a wide variety of nutrients and ensure you aren’t missing out on anything. It’s especially valuable to include leafy greens like kale or spinach—which both contain high levels of several nutrients listed above— and a variety of fruits (many of which contain high levels of vitamin C).
In addition to a large amount of diverse fruits and vegetables, gathering those necessary omega-3 fatty acids from fatty fish such as mackerel or salmon or from seeds, nuts or soybeans will help to keep your eyes sharp. Nuts are also high in vitamin E, as are leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes and whole grains. For zinc look to meat, shellfish, seeds, beans and whole grains.
On the other hand, it is a good “eye-dea” to avoid unsaturated and trans fats, which can be found in foods such as margarine, deep fried foods and processed convenience snacks. In addition to these traditional “junk foods,” foods heavy in processed flour (which is high in carbs and low in just about everything else) such as pasta and white bread and margarine (full of trans fats) are not good for ocular health (or overall health, for that matter).
If you’d like a good place to start, check out 36 Fabulous Foods for Your Eyes written for the American Academy of Ophthalmology in November, 2019.
Use Protective Eyewear
We were all told as children not to stare at the sun, and even though the rebellious or curious children we once were may have snuck a peek, the adults we have become are certainly much wiser. Even when not looking towards the sun, however, ambient ultraviolet (UV) rays present in our environment can be harmful to our eyes. Wearing sunglasses during the daytime (even on cloudy days) that block the full spectrum of UV rays (UVA and UVB) and that fully wrap around the side of your face to protect your eyes from peripheral light is an important way to protect your eyes. Choose sunglasses that clearly mark that they block 100% of UV rays—the full spectrum of UVA and UVB. Additionally, wearing a hat with a wide brim can further protect you from UV rays.
It’s not just about the sun, though. Protecting your eyes from harmful materials in general will help keep your vision strong. Any time you are in a workshop setting, such as in the Woodworking Shop here at Southgate, it’s important to wear safety goggles.
As technology has become more prevalent in all our lives, overexposure to the light that comes from screens on our cell phones and computers has become a concern. Make sure you give yourself breaks to blink and rest your eyes while using your computer or phone. You should also take breaks to focus your eyes on an object across the room so that you aren’t just focusing nearby for extended periods. Research suggests that for every twenty minutes of screen time, you spend twenty seconds looking into the distance to help ease eye strain and let your eyes refocus to the wider world.
Consult Your Doctor and Get Regular Eye Exams
Our eyes are sophisticated organs, so if something seems strange, consult your eye doctor. The faster you and your medical professional can get to the bottom of any vision changes you may have, the faster they can help you counteract them and right your vision. Make sure you discuss any family history related to vision with your doctor so preventative measures can be put in place to help you mitigate those risks. Regular doctor visits are important to help prevent future health issues and keep your eyes—and whole body—in tip top shape. At communities like Southgate at Shrewsbury, you’ll even find easy access to nearby medical professionals and transportation options to help you get to appointments.
Our vision is an important part of our overall sensory perception that helps us form memories. Maintaining our vision is important to our cognitive well-being and allows us to create richer memories throughout life. If you’re looking for more information and tips, WebMD has more tips to help you keep your eyes healthy.
Now go forth and enjoy the sights around you! After all, there are many beautiful areas of our campus to enjoy all year round.