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.
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. 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. Meanwhile, additional research shows an association between morbid obesity and elevated intraocular pressure and retinopathy, increasing the risk for glaucoma.
Carefully Manage Diabetes
Diabetic eye disease is a group of eye problems that can affect people with diabetes, according to the American Diabetes Association. 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.”