20 Simple Habits That Can Improve Your Vision
These habits may help lower the risk of eye diseases, like age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), cataracts, glaucoma, and dry eye disease.
Mind your eyes
From what you eat (or don’t eat) and how much you exercise you get to how often you see they eye doctor or wash your make-up brushes, there is lots you can do to protect your vision.
Eat spinach twice a week
Be sure to get your spinach at least twice a week. Studies find that lutein, a nutrient particularly abundant in spinach, may prevent age-related macular degeneration, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation. A half-cup of spinach has a whopping 7,043 mcg of lutein. “Eat dark green leafy vegetables like kale, collards, and spinach, because they are rich in lutein and deeply colored fruits and vegetables because they are rich in antioxidants,” advises Lylas G Mogk, MD, an ophthalmologist and Medical Director of Henry Ford Visual Rehabilitation Centers in Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
Get the shingles shot if you’re 50 plus
More and more adults are coming down with shingles of the eye or herpes zoster ophthalmicus (HZO). In fact, research presented at the 2019 meeting of the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology in Vancouver showed that these rates have tripled. The shingles vaccine, called Shingrix, is more than 90 percent effective at preventing shingles, according to vaccines.gov. The CDC currently recommends that healthy adults aged 50 and older get two doses of Shingrix separated by 2 to 6 months. Here are the 11 shingles symptoms you may be ignoring.
Move your computer screen to just below eye level
Your eyes will close slightly when you’re staring at the computer, minimizing fluid evaporation and the risk of dry eye syndrome, says John Sheppard, MD, who directs the ophthalmology residency program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia. Follow these rules of desk ergonomics for a more productive (and pain-free) workday!
Walk at least four times a week
Exercise makes everything better, including your vision, Dr. Mogk says. “Regular exercise helps circulation, which helps every part of your body.” At least one study backs this up. Exercising 150 minutes a week reduced the risk of developing glaucoma by at least 40 percent or more, according to research in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.
Eat fish twice a week
In addition to being heart-healthy, fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids including salmon, tuna, and halibut may help protect your eyesight, according to the National Eye Institute. Check out these 10 foods that slash your risk of macular degeneration. The American Heart Association recommends eating 2 servings of fish (particularly fatty fish) per week.
Say sayonara to greasy or sweet snacks
Packaged foods contain omega-6 fatty acids. “Omega-6 fatty acids promote inflammation which is a step in the age-related macular degeneration process,” Dr. Mogk says. Her advice? Avoid packaged foods like pies, cakes, cookies, and chips.
Have sweet potatoes for dinner tonight
Sweet potatoes and carrots are loaded with carotenoids which may help stave off macular degeneration, according to a study in JAMA Ophthalmology. The leading cause of blindness, macular degeneration is marked by the deterioration of the central part of the retina (the macula) and is irreversible, according to the American Macular Degeneration Foundation.
Wear sunglasses whenever you leave the house
Researchers from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio showed that UV light can damage lens proteins in a distinct way, increasing the risk of a cataract (a clouding of the eye lens that typically occurs with aging). Their findings appear in the Journal of Biological Chemistry. “Look for sunglasses that block 99 percent to 100 percent of both UVA and UVB rays,” advises New York City ophthalmologist Gregory J. Pamel, MD, a clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Health. “They don’t have to cost a lot of money to work well.”A wide-brimmed hat or cap also makes sense, he says. . Make sure you know these sunglasses myths that could ruin your eyes.
Treat your allergies
Itchy eyes are a classic allergy symptom. “Vigorous eye rubbing may reduce the itch, but it is harmful to the eye and can increase your risk of pink eye and other eye infections,” Dr. Pamel says. Here are some pink eye symptoms to look out for. Talk to your doctor about eye drops or other allergy treatments that alleviate the itch without sacrificing your vision, he says.
Mind your contact lenses
Many contact lenses are worn for just one day and then discarded, but not everyone follows these rules, which is a big mistake, Dr. Pamel says. “This increases your risk of infection and deprives the cornea of the oxygen that it needs to stay healthy,” he says. Swimming with contacts also increases the risk of infections. These are the other contact lens mistakes that could be hurting your eyes.
If you smoke, quit
Smoking more than a pack a day can damage your vision, according to a study in Psychiatry Research. Smokers showed changes in red-green and blue-yellow color vision and heavy smokers had a reduced ability to see contrasts and colors, when compared to the non-smokers, the study showed. “Studies have shown us that long-term smoking increases the risk for age-related macular degeneration,” Dr. Pamel says. Talk to your doctor about the best ways to kick the habit for good. These are the 22 best ways to quit smoking, according to experts.
See your eye doctor
It’s important to get a dilated eye exam every 1 to 2 years if you are older than 60, African American and older than 40 or have a family history of glaucoma, according to the National Eye Institute. Glaucoma is a group of eye diseases characterized by a damaged optic nerve.“Glaucoma has no symptoms until it’s too late and if caught early, it can be treated and controlled in most people,” Dr. Mogk says. When your eye doctor dilates your eyes, more light is let in which helps spot many eye diseases.
When you’re working or reading, set your alarm to beep every 30 minutes
Use this as a reminder to look up and away from your computer or to some distant point for 30 seconds. Dr. Pamel says. This helps prevent eye fatigue and eyestrain. Look out for these sneaky signs you need reading glasses.
Check your blood pressure every month
You can do this yourself with a home blood pressure kit, at the doctor’s office, or at the pharmacy. High blood pressure can wreak havoc on your eyes, according to the American Heart Association. For example, lack of blood flow to the retina can cause blurred vision or blindness. “High blood pressure is bad for your entire body. All parts, including eyes, need consistent, unimpeded blood flow,” Dr. Mogk says. These are the shocking diseases that eye doctors find first.
Use eye makeup remover every night before going to bed
This prevents small pieces of mascara from winding up in your eye and possibly scratching your cornea. But “don’t get the make-up or make-up remover in your eyes and don’t poke your eye with a make-up device,” Dr. Mogk warns. Here are 13 more easy tips for boosting your eyesight.
Consider an eye-friendly supplement
The landmark National Eye Institute’s Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) and 2006 AREDS2 found that a supplement containing lutein and zeaxanthin, vitamin C and vitamin E, zinc and copper could reduce the risk of developing advanced AMD in high-risk individuals by as much as 25 percent over five years, Dr. Mogk says. ”They can be taken as supplements and both lutein and zeaxanthin are in the AREDS-2 supplement combination, which is recommended for those who have AMD.” Dr. Pamel recommends a liquid medical food called Lumega Z to all his patients. “This is the only medical food that contains all three carotenoids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin to protect the macula with a full complement of antioxidant—and anti-inflammatory—ingredients to fully restore the back of the eye and protect against vision loss.“ Make sure you avoid these vitamin mistakes that you’re probably making.
Wear goggles when you’re doing carpentry or even yard work
Debris in the eye can lead to corneal abrasions, which can ultimately damage your vision. Also use protective goggles when you’re swimming to protect your eyes from the chlorine. The National Eye Institute notes that you can buy goggles from most eye care providers and some sporting goods stores.
Use a fresh towel every time you wipe your face
Sharing face towels is a great way to get pinkeye. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also cautions against sharing pillows, eye drops, eye or face makeup, makeup brushes, contact lenses, contact lens storage cases and/or eyeglasses. Read up on these 13 secrets your eye doctor won’t tell you.
Reach for some greens
Because they are high in lutein and zeaxanthin, greens like collards and kale (delicious when lightly steamed with a splash of hot pepper vinegar) may reduce your risk of developing both cataracts and macular degeneration, and may even slow the progression of these diseases once they’ve begun. Both have strong antioxidant properties, which may help repair some of the damage that contributes to both conditions, Dr. Mogk says. Don’t ignore these silent signs that you have cataracts.
The traditional Mediterranean diet is rich in whole grains, colorful fruits and veggies, lean proteins and healthy fats. It’s good for your heart and your vision. In fact, this style of eating may reduce risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by 41 percent. The study appears in Ophthalmology.
- American Macular Degeneration Foundation:” Lutein for Preventing Macular Degeneration”
- Lylas G Mogk, MD, ophthalmologist and Medical Director of Henry Ford Visual Rehabilitation Centers, Grosse Pointe, Michigan
- Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology annual meeting: "Aging Baby Boomers Push Sky High Incidence of Shingles of the Eye”
- Vaccines.gov: “Shingles (Herpes Zoster)”
- CDC:”Shingles Vaccination”
- John Sheppard, MD, director of the ophthalmology residency program at Eastern Virginia Medical School in Norfolk, Virginia
- Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: 'Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Incident Glaucoma”
- American Heart Association: ”Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids”
- JAMA Ophthalmology: “Intakes of Lutein, Zeaxanthin, and Other Carotenoids and Age-Related Macular Degeneration During 2 Decades of Prospective Follow-up”
- American Macular Degeneration Foundation: "What is Macular Degeneration?”
- Journal of Biological Chemistry: “UVA light-excited kynurenines oxidize ascorbate and modify lens proteins through the formation of advanced glycation end products: implications for human lens aging and cataract formation”
- Gregory J. Pamel, MD, ophthalmologist and clinical associate professor of ophthalmology at NYU Langone Health
- Psychiatry Research:” Visual impairments in tobacco use disorder”
- National Eye Institute: "Get a Dilated Eye Exam”
- American Heart Association: "How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Vision Loss”
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: “Prevention”
- The American Optometric Association:” Lutein and Zeaxanthin—Eye-Friendly Nutrients”
- Opthalmology: "Mediterranean Diet and Incidence of Advanced Age-Related Macular Degeneration"