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5 Tips to Keep Your Eyes Healthy--Including What Foods to Eat!
03/24/2021
Linda May-Zhang, PhD

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Your eyesight is one of the most important of our senses. Eighty percent of the information we need to perceive the world is delivered by the eyes. More of our brain cells are dedicated to vision than the other four senses combined. So, don’t take your eyes for granted. About one of three people has some form of vision-reducing eye condition by the age of 65. How to keep your eyes healthy? Here are some practical tips:

1. Adding certain nutrients to your daily diet.

Certain nutrients to your diet, either through foods or dietary supplements, are important for eye health. Extensive research shows that lutein and zeaxanthin, carotenoids found in leafy green veggies as well as egg yolks, play important roles in eye development, support vision, as well as prevent development of age-related eye conditions [1]. Astaxanthin is another carotenoid that is found in shellfish and fish and is considered a superbly potent antioxidant that is 6000 times stronger than vitamin C [2]. Astaxanthin supplementation is found to relieve symptoms of eye strain in middle aged with presbyopia (a condition that makes focusing on close objects difficult) [3] and older adults as well as improved distance vision in healthy volunteers [4]. Finally, data from a recent study with 88 office workers suggest that a bilberry extract helped with eye fatigue [5]. Make sure to include these nutrient-packed foods in your diet, or consider taking a bilberry and lutein or astaxanthin dietary supplement.

2. Wear sunglasses to protect against UV rays

Over time, sunlight can take a heavy toll on the eyes if left unprotected. Chronic exposure to UV light can cause significant damage to your eyes and increases your chances of cataracts, which occurs when the crystalline lens of the eye gradually becomes cloudy and opaque, potentially resulting in blindness if not treated. While cataracts typically affect older individuals, excessive exposure to sunlight without adequate protection can increase your chances in developing this problem. UV radiation also can cause damage to the retina and macula, which results in vision loss and farsightedness. To protect your eyes from UV-induced damage, choose a pair of sunglasses that blocks >99% of UVA and UVB rays. Avoid using tanning beds or sun lamps .Wear UV-blocking goggles when surfing, swimming or snowboarding.

3. Avoid staring at a computer or phone screen for too long

Staring at a screen for too long can cause eye strain, dry eyes, blurry vision, difficulty focusing at a distance, headaches and even neck, back and shoulder pain. If you have a job that requires working from a computer all day, make sure you remember to rest your eyes. Trying getting up from your desk every hour or two and take a 15-minute break from the computer. Try looking away from your computer for 20 seconds every 20 minutes or so. Make sure your chair is supportive and comfortable and your computer monitor is positioned so that your eyes are level or looking slightly down. Avoid glare from windows or lights and use an anti-glare screen if needed.

4. Quit smoking

Smoking damages blood vessels throughout the body, including eyes. Smoking also decreases nutrients to the eyes. As a result, smoking increases the chances of getting cataracts, damage to the optic nerve and macular degeneration. While smoking is difficult to quit, there may be several methods that may be helpful, including nicotine replacement therapy, medication to reduce nicotine craving, counseling or support groups.

5. Visit an eye doctor regularly

Regular eye exams help identify any vision problems or spot signs of disease, such as glaucoma, that has no symptoms. There are two types of doctors: ophthalmologists, who are medical doctors that specialize in eye health, diseases, and can perform surgery, and optometrists who have 4 years of specialized post-college training and can provide general eye care and diagnose most eye diseases. Getting your eyes checked regularly will help you see your best and protect against any deteriorating conditions.

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References

[1] Mares J. (2016) Lutein and Zeaxanthin Isomers in Eye Health and Disease. Annual Review of Nutrition. 36:571-602.

[2] Nishida Y, Yamashita E, Miki W. (2007) Quenching activities of common hydrophilic and lipophilic antioxidants against singlet oxygen using chemiluminescence detection system. Carotenoid Science. 11(6):16-20.

[3] Kajita M, Tsukahara H, Kato M. (2009) The effects of a dietary supplement containing astaxanthin on the accommodation function of the eye in middle-aged and older people. Med Consult New Remedies. 46(3):89-937.

[4] Shiratori K, Ogami K, Nitta T. (2005) The effects of Astaxanthin on Accommodation and Asthenopia—Efficacy Identification Study in Healthy Volunteers. Clinical Medicine. 21(6):637-650.

[5] Ozawa Y, Kawashima M, Inoue S, et al. (2015) Bilberry extract supplementation for preventing eye fatigue in video display terminal workers. Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging. 19(5):548-554.

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