9 Ways To Improve Your Eyesight As You Age, According To Research


Expert Reviewed

Dr. Jennifer Lyerly is an optometrist who specializes in contact lenses and myopia management and practices in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Jennifer Lyerly, O.D. Optometry / Myopia / Contact Lenses / Ocular Health
Have a question we may not have answered?
Ask our editors here

Have a question for Tamrah Harris or our other editors?

Ask here for a chance to be featured in a story.

This form is protected by reCAPTCHA Enterprise and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Send a note to Tamrah Harris, Jennifer Lyerly, O.D. and our other editors. We read every email.

By submitting this form, you agree to allow us to collect, store, and potentially publish your provided information, including name and question, in the article or any related content. You confirm that the submitted content is original, accurate, and non-infringing on any third-party rights. We may contact you via the email address provided for follow-up questions or to notify you if your question is selected for publication. See our Terms of Use and our Privacy Policy.
Thank you for submitting your question.

Keep reading Forbes Advisor for the chance to see the answer to your question in one of our upcoming stories. Our editors also may be in touch with follow-up questions.

Commissions we earn from partner links on this page do not affect our opinions or evaluations. Our editorial content is based on thorough research and guidance from the Forbes Health Advisory Board.

By age 40, you may begin to notice slight changes in your eyesight that, if left untreated, can worsen. Initially, you may find yourself holding papers and menus at arm’s length to see words more clearly or needing more light to read comfortably. Maybe you’re even having difficulty driving at night because of glare.

Changes in eyesight are a significant health problem for older adults and can majorly affect your sense of independence and overall quality of life. Here’s what you should know about changes in vision as you age and ways to help preserve your eyesight.

How To Improve Your Eyesight Naturally

Preventive healthcare includes taking care of your eyesight. The National Institute for Aging offers the following tips for preserving your vision.

Get Regular Eye Exams

Having problems with your eyes is common, but they can go unnoticed for a long time. A dilated eye exam is vital to finding eye problems early, which is when treatment is most effective. The recommended frequency of dilated eye exams can vary, so ask your doctor what schedule is best for you.

The National Institute for Aging suggests completing a dilated eye exam every one to two years if:

  • You’re at least 60 years old.
  • You’re African American and at least 40 years old.
  • You have a family history of glaucoma.
  • You have diabetes.
  • You have hypertension.

Testing for visual acuity, depth perception, eye alignment and eye movement are all part of this exam. After administering dilating eye drops, your eye doctor can see inside your eyes and check for signs of health problems.

Wear Protection to Block Harmful UV Radiation

Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun perpetually poses a danger to your eyes. In fact, length of UV radiation exposure is linked to the risk of developing cataracts, eye cancer and macular degeneration. When spending time outdoors, wear a wide-brimmed hat and quality sunglasses that provide UV protection.

Stop Smoking

Smoking is as unhealthy for your eyes as it is for the rest of your body. It puts you at a higher risk of developing severe eye conditions that can cause vision loss or blindness. The development of cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy and glaucoma are strongly linked to smoking.

Pay Attention to Nutrition

Diet is an important factor that can have long-term effects on eye health. Eating a balanced diet high in fruit and green leafy vegetables—which contain carotenoids, zinc, vitamins C and E—is essential. Meanwhile, coldwater fish, a good source of omega-3 fatty acids, may be protective against many age-related eye diseases.

Stay Physically Active

Researchers found participants who met physical activity guidelines—150 minutes of activity a week—had a 50% lower risk of glaucoma than those considered entirely sedentary[1]. Moreover, people with the highest cardiovascular fitness had a 40% lower glaucoma risk than those at the lowest fitness levels. People who both met the fitness guidelines and were in the highest fitness category had the lowest risk for developing glaucoma.

Maintain a Healthy Weight

A recent study found obesity to be a risk factor for cataracts[2]. Meanwhile, additional research shows an association between morbid obesity and elevated intraocular pressure and retinopathy, increasing the risk for glaucoma[3].

Carefully Manage Diabetes

Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association[4]. These conditions include diabetic retinopathy, diabetic macular edema, cataracts and glaucoma. Since diabetic retinopathy is a complication of both type 1 and 2 diabetes, it’s vital to keep blood glucose levels under control—the prevalence of diabetic retinopathy depends on how long you’ve had diabetes and how well you control your glucose levels.

Keep an Eye on Your Blood Pressure

High blood pressure causes damage to blood vessels in the retina. The severity of the damage depends on the blood pressure measurement and the length of time it’s elevated. Your risk of damage and vision loss increases if you have high cholesterol—poor blood flow causes damage to the nerves and blockage of the arteries and veins.

Rest Your Eyes

Are you looking at a screen for all or part of your day in this digital age? The American Association of Ophthalmology (AOA) recommends taking regular breaks by using the “20-20-20” rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. This practice can help reduce eye strain.

“To keep eyes healthy, the same things that keep the rest of you healthy work best,” says Sebastian Heersink, M.D., an ophthalmologist at Eye Center South in Dothan, Alabama. “Eat well, avoid smoking, get exercise, wear sunglasses (and safety glasses) and learn your family medical and eye history so you and your eye doctor can proactively care for your eyes during your regular eye visits.”

Why Does Vision Get Worse With Age?

Many factors play a role in how well your eyes age, and each eye disorder affects different parts of the eye, which can cause changes in your eyesight. A few common age-related vision changes include:

  • Decreased visual acuity. With a decrease in visual acuity, you notice less detail in objects. It’s tested during an eye exam when you stand 20 feet from the eye chart and are asked to read a line of letters from the chart without wearing your glasses or contact lenses. You may also be asked to cover one eye at a time and read aloud the smallest letters you can see on the chart.
  • Decreases in contrast sensitivity. Simply put, your eyes are less able to detect small changes in light. Difficulty with driving at night is a common example of decreased contrast sensitivity. For this test, the examiner asks you to look at a chart with rows of letters and name the letters in ambient lighting. As the test progresses, the contrast between the letters and the background decreases so it’s harder to distinguish what’s written.
  • Diminished capacity to accommodate. To test for accommodation, the doctor has you look at a near reading card and then adds prescription lenses until the target becomes clear.
  • Heightened sensitivity to glare. While driving, you may increasingly notice glare from headlights at night or sun reflecting off windshields during the day. The scattering of the light entering your eye due to changes to your eye lens causes this intense glare.

How Does LASIK Surgery Improve Vision?

LASIK (laser-assisted in situ keratomileusis) is a corrective vision surgery performed by eye doctors on patients with imperfect vision but otherwise healthy eyes. Approximately 600,000 U.S. adults undergo LASIK or similar surgery each year, according to a study in American Family Physician.

Lasik is a refractive surgery, meaning it reshapes the cornea with a laser to improve nearsightedness and farsightedness, each of which is caused by a mismatch between the length of the eye itself and the cornea and lens, leading to refractive error. LASIK can also be used to correct astigmatism.

Candidates for LASIK must be at least 18 years old, as eyesight can change throughout adolescence. Candidates must also have stable vision for at least one year prior to the procedure and have healthy eye tissues. It’s important to note that in older adults with a previous history of refractive surgery, later surgeries for cataracts should be done with preoperative eye measurements. LASIK should not be performed on people using high-dose steroids, who are pregnant or lactating or who have uncontrolled diabetes mellitus. LASIK may also interfere with glaucoma testing, making an early diagnosis more difficult.

Unfortunately, insurance doesn’t usually cover the cost of LASIK, which can range from about $1,000 to $4,000 per eye.

Your Clear Vision Partner

Experience unmatched expertise and savings at LASIK.com, with the nation's largest network of trusted surgeons.

Book A Free Consultation

On LASIK.com

Vitamins for Eye Health

Balanced nutrition is a key component of maintaining eye health. If you feel like your diet isn’t covering the essential eye health bases mentioned above—in particular lots of fruits, green leafy vegetables and foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids (like fish)—there are a few science-backed vitamins you may consider taking in supplement form (or by increasing foods containing these vitamins in your diet).

Antioxidants, such as vitamins A, C and E. The lens and retina suffer from oxidative damage and stress as we age due to ultraviolet (UV) light exposure and other hazards. Studies show these vitamins  can protect against oxidative stress—an imbalance between antioxidants and free radicals in your body. Additionally, research notes Vitamins C and E to be protective against age-related macular degeneration (AMD) in combination with zinc , according to a study in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Foods rich in vitamin A include fortified foods, such as breakfast cereals, leafy green vegetables like spinach and kale, yellow and orange vegetables like carrots and sweet potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, beef liver and fish oils, among others. The recommended daily amount (RDA) of vitamin A in adults is 700 micrograms for women and 900 micrograms for men.

Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, other fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and tomatoes, and foods fortified with Vitamin C, such as TK. The upper limit of vitamin C intake in adults per day is 2,000 milligrams.

Vitamin E rich foods include vegetable oils, especially wheat germ, sunflower and safflower oils, green leafy vegetables like spinach and kale and certain fortified foods, such as some breakfast cereals. The RDA of vitamin E for adults is 15 milligrams.

Zinc, when combined with certain antioxidants, is shown to protect against the progression of AMD and is also important in maintaining retna health. Foods rich in zinc include almonds, cashews, beans, oysters, chickpeas and dark poultry meat, and RDA of zinc in adults is 11 milligrams a day for men and 8 milligrams a day for women.

Carotenoids, in particular lutein and zeaxanthin, are associated with a lower risk of developing cataracts and AMD. Parsley, spinach, kale and egg yolks are all rich sources of lutein and zeaxanthin.

Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in fish, benefit eye health. In fact, One study included in Nutrients shows that people eating fish high in omega-3 fatty acids at least once per week are at a lower risk of developing early onset AMD. Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids include fish and certain oils, such as flaxseed oil. As it’s not produced by the body, Omega-3 is considered an essential fatty acid and  must be obtained from diet or supplementation.

Before adding a vitamin or supplement to your wellness routine, speak with your health care provider to determine what might be right for you as well as to ensure proper dosing.

Using the 20-20-20 Rule to Prevent Eye Strain

The 20-20-20 rule is a relatively easy practice to incorporate into your daily routine if you spend a lot of time looking at computer screens. Essentially, every 20 minutes you spend 20 minutes focusing your eyes on something 20 feet away, according to the National Institute on Aging.

More than 60 million people worldwide experience symptoms of computer vision syndrome (CVS), which the AOA says can include eye strain and headaches, eye irritation, dryness and burning, as well as blurred vision and neck and shoulder pain.  The AOA recommends the 20-20-20 rule to reduce these symptoms.

See The World With Clarity At LASIK.com

LASIK.com is where expertise meets trust, offering the largest network of surgeons, advanced technology, and personalized care for your vision journey.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do carrots really help your eyesight?

Carrots contain high levels of beta carotene—an orange pigment and carotenoid that is converted into vitamin A in the body— and may protect against AMD and other age related eye diseases.

What is the best vision you can have?

When measuring visual acuity, 20/20 is considered normal. This means you can see clearly at 20 feet away what should normally be seen from that distance. However, 20/20 vision is not necessarily perfect vision, as visual acuity only accounts for sharpness and clarity, not depth perception, color vision, eye coordination, focusing ability or other elements of sight.

What visual acuity is considered legally blind?

To be considered legally blind, you must have a visual acuity of 20/200 or worse in the better-seeing eye using the best correction possible (via contact lenses or glasses or ). This means that you must only be 20 feet away to see something another person can see from a 200 foot distance.

Does wearing glasses weaken your eyes?

No, wearing glasses prescribed by an eye doctor for a vision condition does not make your eyes weak. Wearing glasses with corrective lenses improves your vision while you are wearing them, but does not change your eye health




Information provided on Forbes Health is for educational purposes only. Your health and wellness is unique to you, and the products and services we review may not be right for your circumstances. We do not offer individual medical advice, diagnosis or treatment plans. For personal advice, please consult with a medical professional.

Forbes Health adheres to strict editorial integrity standards. To the best of our knowledge, all content is accurate as of the date posted, though offers contained herein may no longer be available. The opinions expressed are the author’s alone and have not been provided, approved or otherwise endorsed by our advertisers.