Top Tips for Eye Health
By Venus Ramos, MD
Good vision plays an important role in your functioning, mobility, and overall well-being. While many people accept worsening eyesight as an unavoidable consequence of aging, there are actually several lifestyle tips you can implement to help maintain your visual health.
Decrease screen time. Technology has become such an integral part of both our personal and professional lives. You may find that you are spending more and more time with your eyes focused on an electronic screen, be it a smartphone or a computer. Adverse effects of staring at a screen for long periods have actually become so prevalent that the condition has warranted its own term—computer vision syndrome (also known as visual fatigue or digital eye strain). Symptoms can include dryness, burning, tearing, and irritation in the eyes, as well as headaches, blurred vision, and sensitivity to light.
Strategies for Cutting Down Screen Time:
- Follow the 20-20-20 rule. Look away from the screen every 20 minutes and set your gaze on an object at least 20 feet away from you for about 20 seconds.
- Track how much time you’re spending on a smartphone or computer. You can’t manage your screen time until you measure it. You may find that you can cut back on screen activities like social media, playing games, or watching videos.
- Remove notifications for things you don’t need to immediately know about. Getting notified for every news story, email message, or social media post only gives you more excuses to look at a digital screen.
- Schedule your email management. Designate certain times for checking and responding to emails, maybe for 30 minutes after breakfast, lunch, and dinner. When you put yourself in control of your email correspondence, it is less likely that you will let it consume so much of your day.
Reduce glare and ambient light when viewing a screen. Eyestrain can result from excessive lighting as well as from reflections on your screen. Try installing an anti-glare screen on your monitor. Eliminate sunlight coming through a window with drapes or blinds. Reduce bright interior lighting by using fewer light bulbs or switching to lower intensity bulbs.
Blink more often. It’s been discovered that people tend to blink less often when they use a computer—about one-third less often than they normally do. During these long periods of non-blinking, tears that coat the eye evaporate more quickly, causing dry eyes. Blinking frequently will keep your eyes moist to avoid dryness and irritation.
Position your screen correctly. Your eyes should be 20 to 24 inches away from a computer screen to reduce eyestrain. Keep the center of the computer screen at a position about 4 to 8 inches lower than eye level.
Wear eye protection. Use sunglasses when you go outside. Not only can they help block the sun’s potentially harmful UV rays, but they can also shield your eyes from the drying effects of wind. Use goggles when swimming in a pool to protect your eyes from chlorine. Goggles should also be worn when handling hazardous chemicals or using machinery to cut, sand, grind, or weld in order to keep debris and spatter from causing corneal abrasions or other eye trauma. Using eye protection when playing sports involving high-speed balls or players in close contact with each other can guard against eye injury. It’s also a good idea to shield your eyes from road debris when riding a bicycle.
Exercise regularly. It is believed that consistent exercise reduces intraocular pressure, which is the fluid pressure inside the eye. In fact, one study found that participants with glaucoma who engaged in a brisk 40-minute walk four times per week were able to reduce their intraocular pressure enough that they no longer had to take medication for their condition.
Get routine eye exams. Regular testing may help detect problems at an early stage. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, computer users should have an eye exam once per year.
Eat a healthy diet that includes the nutrients important for eye health. When unable to eat enough of the foods containing these nutrients, many choose to take supplements to fulfill that need. When selecting a vision-health product, look for the following nutrients:
Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A and plays an essential role in night vision. If you smoke or have smoked, check with your doctor before supplementing because beta-carotene in supplement form has been linked to an increased risk for cancer. Food sources include kale, carrots, pumpkins, apricots, and sweet potatoes.
Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk of developing cataracts. Vitamin C is found in berries, citrus fruit, broccoli, and tomatoes.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin
Lutein and Zeaxanthin are plant pigments that play a role in preventing cataracts and reducing the risk for age-related macular degeneration. Major food sources are kale, peas, spinach, broccoli, and brussels sprouts.