This article originally appeared on Live in the Now.
Good vision is a gift of immeasurable worth, as it plays a vital role in everything we do. Aging and certain diseases, as well as unhealthy lifestyles and exposure to certain environmental agents, can all adversely affect the health of the eyes.
Here are few ways to support your eye health as you age.
While they may seem minor, they can add up to major protection.
Reading a book or a computer screen for long unbroken periods can result in eyestrain. To avoid this malady, The College of Optometrists recommends the 20-20-20 rule, which involves taking a break every 20 minutes and looking at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Every two hours, take a 15-minute rest from reading.
Keep Screens at a Distance
Keep an arm’s length away (20-26 inches) from a desktop computer and 16 inches away from a handheld device, say experts. If you are unable to read the screen from this distance, increase the font size. Here is a guide for how to increase the font size on your computer or device.
Eat Eye-Protective Foods
Eating foods that contain the nutrients your eyes need will aid in warding off cataracts and macular degeneration. Include plenty of fresh fruit in your diet, especially citrus fruits and berries that contain dark red, blue or black pigments. Vegetables, particularly carrots and dark leafy greens, such as kale, spinach and collards, are very beneficial. Nutrients to focus on include: lutein, zeaxanthin, vitamin D, astaxanthin, omega-3 fatty acids.
Drink Green Tea
A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that catechins, the antioxidants in green tea, are absorbed into the retina, lens and other eye tissues. This advantage may protect against glaucoma and other eye disorders.
Get Regular Exercise
Believe it or not, engaging in regular exercise can protect vision in different ways. Research in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests exercise supports vision because it elevates levels of a growth factor that improves the health of neurons in the retina, thereby reducing the risk of macular degeneration. Workouts also help prevent diabetes and cardiovascular disease, both of which increase the likelihood of chronic eye disease.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
It’s no secret that being overweight raises the risk of diabetes, but it’s less known that this condition often leads to other disorders such as diabetic eye disease or glaucoma. Eating a diet that is rich in fresh produce but limits sugary and processed foods will help you keep off excess pounds.
The free radicals generated from smoking are incredibly harmful to the eyes, and the habit is known to increase the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts and nerve damage, all of which can lead to blindness.
Get Regular Comprehensive Eye Exams
Many common eye diseases have no warning signs, so a dilated eye exam is the only way to detect them in the early stages. Moreover, farsightedness and nearsightedness can be reduced with corrective glasses or contact lenses. According to the American Optometric Association (AOA), adults between the ages of 18-60 should schedule a comprehensive eye exam every two years, and adults over the age of 61 should schedule an exam annually.
Wear Protective Glasses
Unless you’re sleeping, your eyes can be exposed to anything from vision-damaging UV rays to dust to chemicals. When choosing sunglasses, the AOA recommends a pair that not only blocks 100 percent of UV rays, but also absorbs most HEV rays. It is also recommended to wear protective eyewear when playing sports that can cause eye injuries, working with airborne or hazardous products or even just out walking on a windy day. Choose eye guards, safety goggles and safety shields made of polycarbonate, a strong plastic material. And if swimming is your exercise of choice, take extra care to guard your eyes against chlorine — too much exposure to chlorine can damage the cornea.
Take Precautions With Eye Makeup
Bacteria can accumulate in mascara, so be sure to replace your tube every three months. Additionally, it’s important to avoid applying eyeliner inside the lash line, as it can block the oil glands that lubricate the eye.
Keep Contact Lenses Clean
Contact lenses can cause infections, so wash your hands before putting them in or taking them out. Follow the proper procedure to disinfect them. For a step-by-step guide to proper contact lens care, as well as information about the various types of contact solution, visit the AOA’s Caring for Contact Lenses page. It’s a great refresher even for those who have been wearing contacts for years.