Here at OptomEyesLife, my focus has always been on healthy living as a means of preventive eye care. Through years of extensive research and study, I've found that our lifestyle choices can affect our risk of developing many vision and ocular health issues. While we cannot change how genetics plays a role in our health, we can make informed choices about everything else. This is why the OEL lifestyle was developed: to help you maintain healthy vision and eyes — and ultimately, whole body health — through dietary and lifestyle interventions and strategies.
Here are ten essential habits to protect your sight and maintain longterm eye health:
1. Have an eye exam (with dilation) annually
Visiting your eye doctor regularly is important, regardless of whether or not you're noticing vision issues. An eye exam may reveal important clues about your current and future risk of developing certain ocular and systemic diseases long before you have symptoms. Don't skip out on dilation either! It is an essential part of an eye exam that allows your doctor to view the inside structures of your eyes, where they look for signs of retinal holes, tears, detachments, or even certain cancers.
2. Practice sun safety
We all know how UV radiation damages our eyes and skin, so it's important to wear sunglasses whenever you head outside (every single day, all year long, even if it's cloudy or overcast, and even in the car). Pair your eyewear with a brimmed hat for extra protection and style. Choose high-quality sunglasses with a large, wrap-around frame and lenses that offer 100% UVA and UVB protection. Read this post for more information on the dangers of UV radiation and how to pick the perfect pair of sunglasses.
Related Post: You, Me, and UV
3. Limit screen time
Reduce your exposure to high-energy visible light (also known as blue light), which may cause symptoms of digital eye strain (eye discomfort and vision problems when viewing digital screens for extended periods of time). More and more research is coming out about the harmful effects of blue light on your circadian rhythms, mood, skin, and eyes. The current recommendation is to limit your screen time 1-2 hours before bedtime, and to follow the '20-20-20 Rule' throughout the day.
For every 20 minutes of screen time, take a 20-second break to focus on something in the distance (approximately 20 feet away). This helps to relax your eye muscles to prevent eye strain, fatigue, and headaches. Bonus: practice blinking exercises to ward off dry eye, a common complaint from tech users.
4. Eat right to protect your sight
Maintain healthy levels of essential vitamins and nutrients through diet and supplementation. Eat colorful fruits and veggies, such as leafy greens, berries, and citrus fruits, as they are rich in antioxidants, which help to combat oxidative stress in the eye. Other key foods include: salmon, eggs, nuts, and whole grains. Avoid processed and fried foods, artificial sugars, and soft drinks, all of which can be harmful to your eyes — and body, too.
5. Limit alcohol intake and say "no" to smoking
Temporary effects of drinking alcohol include blurred vision, double vision, and red eyes, as well as abnormal pupillary responses and eye movements. Chronic, excessive alcohol consumption and smoking both increase one's risk of persistent damage totheir vision as a result of glaucoma, cataracts, and macular degeneration.
6. Get moving
Regular exercise improves blood circulation, which enhances oxygen levels to the eyes. People who engage in moderate physical exercise are less likely to develop glaucoma, macular degeneration, as well as retinopathy from diabetes and hypertension, than people who are sedentary.
7. Watch your weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk of developing diabetes and other systemic conditions, which can lead to vision loss due to retinopathy, retinal vein occlusions, or stroke. In addition to an increased risk of developing cataracts, macular degeneration, and glaucoma, obesity has also been linked to floppy eyelid syndrome and thyroid-related eye diseases.
8. Stress less
Stress and fatigue can cause a temporary blurring of vision, eye strain, and dry eye, especially with extended periods of time in front of screens working to finish that project or cram for an exam. There's also a link between chronic stress levels and having a Type A personality with pesky eyelid twitching (myokymia) and central serous retinopathy.
9. Know your family's health history
Genetics is a large factor in the likelihood of developing many systemic and ocular diseases, so it's important to know which conditions run in your family and relay that information to your doctors. Common eye conditions that can be inherited include macular degeneration, glaucoma, amblyopia, and strabismus, to name a few.
10. Keep a medical emergency kit at home and in the office
In cases of eye emergencies, quick intervention is key. Keep your first aid kit stocked with a sterile saline eye wash for chemical burns or if you accidentally get soap or other particles in your eyes. If you experience an eye injury due to trauma or a chemical burn, promptly contact your eye doctor for further guidance.