January 28th 2022

How Diet Can Help to Improve Eyesight

As January ends and February starts, we reflect on our new year’s resolutions and examine how they are holding up. One of the most common new year’s resolutions is that of looking to implement a healthier diet and make those important lifestyle changes.

A chance to break bad habits and build new ones, the new year is an exciting time. In today’s blog, we look at some healthy activities that can benefit your eyesight for now and years to come.

Diet and eating well can be one of the most important changes that one can make in regard to eye health. Nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E might help ward off age-related vision problems like macular degeneration and cataracts. To get them, you can fill your plate with:

  • Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collards
  • Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish
  • Eggs, nuts, beans, and other non-meat protein sources
  • Oranges and other citrus fruits or juices
  • Oysters and pork

A well-balanced diet also helps you stay at a healthy weight. That lowers your odds of obesity and related diseases like type 2 diabetes, which is the leading cause of blindness in adults.

Quitting Smoking

Not only does smoking cause a multitude of illnesses but it also has a detrimental effect on our eyesight. Those who smoke are more likely to get cataracts, damage to their optic nerve, and macular degeneration. Smoking’s effect on eye health should not be underestimated. According to the Macular Society:

‘Research consistently shows that smoking increases the risk of developing AMD. Current smokers are up to four times more likely to have AMD than people who have never smoked.

Smokers are more likely to develop AMD up to 10 years earlier than those who have never smoked. Their AMD is likely to progress faster and be less responsive to treatment. Second-hand smoke is also likely to increase the risk of AMD. The tar in cigarette smoke is likely to contribute to the formation of ‘drusen’. These fatty deposits in the retina are the early signs of AMD.

Inhaling cigarette smoke speeds up the ageing process by increasing the activity of ‘free radicals’. These are damaging oxygen-derived molecules, or oxidants, which reduce the body’s ability to regenerate cells. The action of free radicals is called ‘oxidative stress’ and is a major theory of why we age.

In many areas of health we are advised to eat a diet high in antioxidants to help off-set the action of free radicals and this is true in eye health as well. Lutein and zeaxanthin are substances found in high concentrations in the macula and are thought to protect it from ultraviolet light.

Smoking reduces the effectiveness of antioxidants and may deplete the levels of lutein in the macula. People with lower levels of lutein may be more likely to get AMD. Cigarette smoke also reduces the amount of oxygen reaching the choroid. This is a network of tiny blood vessels that supply the retina. Smoking also damages blood vessels themselves, for example the large blood vessels in the heart as well as the tiny ones in the eye.’

Finding healthy ways to deal with stress and the temptation to smoke can increase the likelihood of quitting for good.

Wearing Sunglasses

In the new year and January, the sun lies lower in the sky making it hard to see at times. The right pair of shades will help protect your eyes from the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Too much UV exposure boosts your chances of cataracts and macular degeneration.

Choose a pair that blocks 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB rays. Wraparound lenses help protect your eyes from the side. Polarized lenses reduce glare while you drive, but don’t necessarily offer added protection. Not only can this be useful for the start of the year but protecting your eyesight with sunglasses (where appropriate) is a simple, year-round change we can make.

Use Safety Eyewear

If you use hazardous or airborne materials on the job or at home, wear safety glasses or protective goggles. Sports like ice hockey, racquetball, and lacrosse can also lead to eye injury. Wear eye protection. Helmets with protective face masks or sports goggles with polycarbonate lenses will shield your eyes.

Look Away from the Computer Screen

With many of us working from home or being in front of a computer screen for vast amounts of a day, it is important to understand that this can cause:

  • Eyestrain
  • Blurry vision
  • Trouble focusing at a distance
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches
  • Neck, back, and shoulder pain

However, it is possible to reduce these effects and protect your eyes by:

  • Making sure your glasses or contacts prescription is up to date and good for looking at a computer screen
  • If your eye strain won’t go away, talk to your doctor about computer glasses
  • Moving the screen so your eyes are level with the top of the monitor. That lets you look slightly down at the screen
  • Trying to avoid glare from windows and lights. Use an anti-glare screen if needed
  • Choosing a comfortable, supportive chair. Position it so that your feet are flat on the floor.
  • If your eyes are dry, blink more or try using artificial tears
  • Resting your eyes every 20 minutes. Look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Get up at least every two hours and take a 15-minute break.

The new year is a new chance to reflect and make important changes become a habit. We hope that our entry on how to care for your eyes has been helpful and we wish you a successful and healthy 2022.

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