We rely on our vision as a key way to experience our world. While some may see vision loss or impairment as a normal part of growing older, the truth is, it doesn’t have to be. There are plenty of ways to support eye health throughout one’s lifetime. From getting regular eye exams to adjusting diet, these 10 simple tips can keep eye and vision health at its best.
#1: Get Regular Eye Exams
Most people don’t get eye exams regularly, with many concluding that their vision is fine. Most eye problems therefore often go undetected, exhibiting no obvious or early symptoms. By making eye exams a part of one’s regular routine, vision and eye health can best be assessed. Getting an eye exam from a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist will allow visual acuity, eye movement, depth perception, and eye alignment to be tested. By dilating the pupils, doctors can get the best picture of eye and vision health and can also screen for other conditions.
Detecting any problems with vision early-on may also decrease the chances of developing serious eye conditions, as these issues can then be addressed promptly. Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and macular degeneration are all conditions that can be detected with an eye exam. Children should have regular eye exams, while the CDC recommends adults over 60 to have their vision tested every 2 years. Certain at-risk groups, like those with diabetes, should have an exam every year. (1)
#2: Wear Sunglasses
Aside from being a fashion accessory, wearing sunglasses is an excellent way to protect the eyes from overexposure to UV rays. Scientific research has shown that UV light increases the risks of cataracts, a condition where the lens of the eye gradually gets cloudy. This can result in impaired vision and difficulty seeing at night. Additionally, cataract removal surgery is one of the most commonly performed surgeries in many areas of the world.
Of course, not all sunglasses are created equally. Choose a pair that blocks out 99-100% of UV-A and UV-B radiation to best support eye and vision health. Contact lenses are also available that are specially formatted to block out UV light.(2, 3)
#3: Wear Protective Eyewear
There are many activities that require protective eyewear, both work and play. Protective eyewear includes goggles, eye guards, and safety shields designed to protect the eyes from harmful substances or impacts. They’re typically made from polycarbonate, a material 10x stronger than other plastic. Whether snowboarding, woodworking, or working with hazardous materials, always make sure to wear eye protection. (3)
#4: Don’t Smoke
While smoking is bad for the entire body, most people don’t think about cigarettes affecting eye and vision health. Research shows that smoking increases the risks of developing cataracts, optic nerve damage, and macular degeneration as the body ages. These conditions could lead to blindness. (4)
#5: Take A Break From The Screen
In our increasingly digital world, we’re spending more time looking at screens than ever before. This can cause eye strain, dry eyes, insomnia, and headaches, especially because we blink less when looking at a digital screen. To give the eyes a break, follow the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes, look away from the screen to an object at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This allows the eyes a chance to relax. Additionally, avoiding looking at a screen at least 2 hours before bed. This further reduces eye strain and can help you sleep much more deeply, because bright lights at night disrupt production of melatonin—your master sleep hormone. (5)
#6: Maintain A Nutritious Diet
The eye is especially susceptible to oxidative stress and needs vitamins and antioxidants to support its function. Not only can a healthy diet help prevent obesity and diabetes–which can lead to vision impairment–but it also provides the vitamins and minerals that are essential for eye and vision health. Studies show that lutein and zeaxanthin, for example, protect the retina through their antioxidant properties and can also filter blue light. Vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc are also important in supporting healthy vision. These vitamins and minerals can be found in a diverse diet of leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, eggs, and nuts. (6)
#7: Manage Metabolic Health
Diabetes is a large risk factor in eye problems, so it’s important to manage blood sugar levels to avoid complications to vision. There are different factors that are important for managing diabetes and metabolic health, including A1c, blood pressure, and both good and bad cholesterol. Because 90% of blindness caused by diabetes is preventable, keeping blood sugar levels in check is essential.
Working with a doctor to manage A1c levels, blood pressure, and cholesterol can support eye health in addition to keeping diabetes under control. Most doctors recommend A1c levels of less than 7%, though these might vary depending on the person. For blood pressure, a goal of less than 140/90 is desirable for most. Lastly, LDL (or “bad cholesterol”) should be balanced with HDL, or good cholesterol. (3)
#8: Get Regular Exercise
Research shows that those with a sedentary lifestyle are more at risk of developing a type of macular degeneration. Those with an active lifestyle, on the other hand, are 70% less likely to develop this condition. Simply exercising 3 or more times a week can produce a wide range of benefits to overall health, including eye and vision function. (7)
#9: Know Your Family’s Medical History
Many conditions affecting the eyes are hereditary, so knowing your family’s vision health history is important. Understanding the possibility of certain conditions being passed down makes it easier to apply preventative measures, well in advance of the onset of any symptoms. Early screenings can also be done to assess the risk of developing hereditary eye conditions. (3)
#10: Keep Hands And Contact Lenses Properly Cleaned
The eyes can easily become infected if touched with dirty hands or contact lenses. Contact lenses should be disinfected and replaced according to directions, with hands always thoroughly washed before putting them in or taking them out. (3)
- CDC. Keep an eye on your vision health. Cdc.gov. Published October 7, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/resources/features/keep-eye-on-vision-health.html
- Coroneo M. Ultraviolet radiation and the anterior eye. Eye Contact Lens. 2011;37(4):214-224. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21670690/
- Tips to prevent vision loss. Cdc.gov. Published June 8, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/tips.htm
- Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Risk factors associated with age-related nuclear and cortical cataract. Ophthalmology 2001; 108(8): 1400–1408.
- Protect your eyes from too much screen time. Aao.org. Published November 3, 2019. https://www.aao.org/newsroom/news-releases/detail/protect-your-eyes-from-too-much-screen-time
- Lawrenson JG, Downie LE. Nutrition and eye health. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771137/
- Knudtson, M. British Journal of Ophthalmology, Oct. 31, 2006, online first edition. News release, BMJ Specialist Journals. WebMD Medical Reference in collaboration with The Cleveland Clinic: “Eye Health: Macular Degeneration.