Maintaining Healthy Vision for Longer
It would be hard to say which of your body’s organs is the most important. But if you were to make a list, chances are your eyes would be near the top. With that in mind, you should be taking steps every day to develop and maintain great vision – especially if you’re over the age of 55. Just like with the rest of your body, maintaining good eye health starts with diet, exercise, and regular doctor visits.
Watch What’s on Your Plate
Besides genetic and environmental factors, your diet can be a major factor in your overall eye health. A general rule is to be sure to include lots of fruits and green leafy vegetables in your diet, but there are some specific vitamins and minerals that go a long way in helping to support proper eye health.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids – these crucial nutritional compounds help with good eye sight, lowering triglycerides, and even reducing inflammation. Whenever possible, it’s best to try and get omega-3 fatty acids from foods like tuna, lake trout, and salmon instead of from supplements.
Vitamins A, C, & E – because your body doesn’t store certain vitamins, it’s important that you include them in your daily diet. Vitamin A works to help protect the surface of your eyes and fights against dry eye. Pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes, eggs, and spinach are all great sources of Vitamin A.
Speaking of spinach, this green leafy vegetable is also a great source of Vitamin C, along with broccoli and fresh orange juice. Vitamin C has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. It also helps in the production of collagen in your corneas. Vitamin E, found in whole grains, peanut butter, and even olives, is rich in antioxidants that reduce your risk of cataracts and help your body heal.
Take it Easy
High stress levels and lack of sleep will wreak havoc on your body and your eyes, especially over long periods of time. Just like the rest of your organs and muscles, it’s important that your eyes have time to rest. Make sure you’re getting a good night’s sleep each night, and that you’re taking regular breaks during vision-related activities.
If you spend lots of time in front of a computer, reading books, staring at a smartphone or tablet, or even watching TV for long periods of time, you should be giving your eyes a regular break. Try the 20-20-20 Rule – every 20 minutes, choose an object at least 20 feet away, and focus on it for 20 seconds. Much like stretching your hamstrings, this exercise gives the muscles in your eyes a chance to refocus and move in different directions.
Work Your Eyes Out
It may sound strange, but eye exercises are a real thing! Especially over the age of 55, eye exercises should be a part of your everyday routine to strengthen eye muscles and improve your vision.
Here are a few eye workouts you can do to help maintain good eye health:
- Blinking – sure, you do this one without any thought, but intentional blinking helps regulate blood circulation around the eyes. This is especially important if you’re spending lots of time looking at digital displays like laptop screens, smartphones, iPads, and televisions, as you will naturally blink less when viewing those devices. To give your eyes a good blinking workout, close your eyes for 3-6 seconds and then open them, repeating several times. Then, after that first set, blink your eyes every 4-5 seconds for a 2-minute period. These brief periods of darkness help keep your eyes fresh by dismissing “old” visual cues and information while preparing your eyes to receive new visual data.
- Refocusing – to strengthen the muscles in your eyes, sit or stand in a comfortable position and focus on something close to you. Then, gradually allow your gaze to focus on something a little farther away, but still in your line of sight. Repeat this again until you are viewing the object farthest away from your position, up to 8-10 times. Another good focusing exercise for strengthening eye muscles is to take your thumb and stretch it out as far away from your eyes as possible. Focus on your thumb and slowly move it toward you until it’s about 3-5 inches from the tip of your nose. Then, keeping your eyes focused solely on your thumb, slowly move it away from your face and back to its original stretched-out position.
- Covering – this is a great way not only to alleviate tired, achy eye muscles, but also to briefly relax your mind. Take both palms and cover your closed eyes for 1-2 minutes. The darkness this exercise provides allows your eyes muscles to go from engaged to relaxed, and can help keep your eyes fresh. This exercise is especially good during (and after) activities like puzzles, certain games and outdoor activities, reading of small print, or even letter writing; all of which require lots of fine eye movements.
See a Vision Professional
The ultimate safeguard in keeping your vision stronger for longer is regular visits to your optometrist. These highly-skilled doctors can work with you not only to keep your vision in the best possible condition, but also to help identify other health-related conditions that can affect your eyes. A good rule of thumb is to see an optometrist at least once yearly beginning at school age and continuing as you age; though your optometrist may let you know that your visits should be more frequent if necessary.
To schedule your premium eye exam with one of our independent Doctors of Optometry, call our Pine Ridge Road location (near the Vineyards) at 239.353.8794 or our downtown Naples location at 239.263.6677.