10 Ways to Avoid Vision Loss & Keep Your Eyesight Sharp

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Too many people view their eyes as something separate from the rest of their body. But the opposite is actually true — your overall health significantly influences your vision. 

Another misconception related to eye health is that vision loss is a normal part of aging. You might even think that macular degeneration or the need for eyeglasses are unavoidable parts of the aging process. Neither of these is true!

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to support eye health throughout your life — here are 10 simple tips to protect your eyesight and vision health well into your senior years.

1. Get Regular Eye Exams

Many people don’t get their eyes checked regularly. You might think that your vision is fine, but keep in mind that most eye problems often go undetected, as they cause no obvious or early symptoms. Regular exams from a qualified optometrist or ophthalmologist will provide a complete picture of your visual acuity, eye movement, depth perception, and eye alignment.

Having an eye exam can also help spot vision-related conditions before they progress into something more serious. Cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and retinal tears (which can lead to retinal detachment) can all be detected with an eye exam. Certain at-risk groups, including those with diabetes, should have an exam every year. (1)

2. Wear Sunglasses

Aside from being a chic 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 Regular Breaks From Screens

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 your 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, avoid looking at a screen at least two hours before bed. This further reduces eye strain and can help you sleep more deeply — bright lights at night can disrupt melatonin production, your body’s master sleep hormone. (5)

6. Make Your Diet Antioxidant-Rich

Foods that fuel chronic inflammation and free radical damage, such as excess sugars, simple carbs, trans-fats, processed foods, pesticides, and other chemicals, wreak havoc on our organs and tissues — especially the eyes. While there are numerous types of eye conditions — from cataracts to glaucoma to macular degeneration — gradual vision loss is associated with all of them. Research shows that certain nutrients can make a difference because the structure of the eye can be particularly sensitive to nutrient deficiencies and free radical damage.  

Speaking of free radical damage, the eyes are especially susceptible to oxidative stress and need specific antioxidants to function optimally. For example, studies show that the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin help protect the retina and filter blue light. Green leafy vegetables (kale, broccoli, spinach, peas) are the top food sources of lutein and zeaxanthin, but you can also get them in einkorn (an ancient wheat grain), durum wheat, and corn.

Antioxidants‘ protective powers become especially critical when it comes to eye health. One study, which reviewed more than a dozen trials, found that supplement-based antioxidants can slow macular degeneration. These included the antioxidant-rich vitamins A, C, and E, as well as zinc and copper to help process antioxidants in the body. (6)

Higher intakes of vitamin A, niacin, thiamin, riboflavin, and protein are correlated with a reduced risk of cataracts. Glutathione, a master antioxidant that enhances detoxification, also helps protect vision. Foods such as whey protein, broccoli, walnuts, garlic, asparagus, and the herb milk thistle help the body produce more of this important anti-aging nutrient.

For glaucoma patients, important nutrients include lipoic acid and essential fatty acids — particularly the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. 

For macular degeneration and overall vision health, focus on lutein, zeaxanthin, vinpocetine, and taurine. I also recommend honokiol magnolia bark extract and an extensively researched Tibetan Herbal Formula, both of which are excellent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents that offer several overall health benefits.  

8. Manage Metabolic Health 

Diabetes is a big risk factor for eye problems, so managing your blood sugar is vital if you want to avoid vision complications. 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 your 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. Shield Against Blue Light Damage

Have you heard of blue light? Many people haven’t, but if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably getting a full dose of it right now from an electronic device that emits blue light. If you spend more than five hours a day in front of a computer screen or monitor, this blue light could be damaging to your health, your cells, and even your DNA.  

Blue light is a high-energy, short wavelength of visible light. The shorter the wavelength, the more energy it transmits, and the more damage it can do to your health, skin, and eyes. UV rays from the sun are short wave rays, while blue light is slightly longer than UV rays, is visible, and is just as damaging (if not more), penetrating all the way to your mitochondria and cellular levels. 

Blue light is everywhere, and the blue light spectrum and electromagnetic fields (EMFs) bombard your cells with different forms of radiation. Sunlight emits blue light, but so do light bulbs, computer screens, smartphones, LED TVs, and other electronic screen-based devices. With the increase in screen time, remote working conditions, and apps, blue light exposure is increasing and can have long-term effects on our health.

In addition to wearing blue light glasses to help filter out harmful rays, certain natural ingredients such as antioxidants can help neutralize damage from blue light, protecting cells, tissues, and even your DNA healthy. See number 6 above for more info on antioxidants and diet.  

Sources:

  1. 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
  2. Coroneo M. Ultraviolet radiation and the anterior eye. Eye Contact Lens. 2011;37(4):214-224. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21670690/ 
  3. Tips to prevent vision loss. Cdc.gov. Published June 8, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/tips.htm
  4. Age-Related Eye Disease Study Research Group. Risk factors associated with age-related nuclear and cortical cataract. Ophthalmology 2001; 108(8): 1400–1408.
  5. 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
  6. Lawrenson JG, Downie LE. Nutrition and eye health. Nutrients. 2019;11(9):2123. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6771137/ 
  7. 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.

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