The eye is a highly complex and sensitive organ that requires a careful combination of nutrients, protection, exercise and rest for optimal function. Use the following tips to maintain visual health:
- Don’t smoke, and avoid exposure to secondhand smoke. Smoking can decrease blood supply to the eyes by causing blood vessels to narrow and blood to thicken.
- Protect the eyes from the elements. Sunlight can damage the cells of the macula, which provides visual acuity. Wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses that protect against at least 99 percent of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
- Use safety eyewear when working around potential hazards to vision to help protect against injuries.
- Stay active. Exercise promotes eye health by improving circulation and lowering the risk of diabetes.
- Keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure increases the risk of glaucoma. Consider medication if lifestyle changes can’t bring pressures into the normal range.
- Work in a well-lighted area. While dim lighting may not harm eyes, it can cause temporary eyestrain. When you do use artificial illumination, use full-spectrum light bulbs, which mimic natural light.
- Keep your computer screen clean, at or below eye level, and about two feet away from your eyes.
- Take frequent breaks. Look away from the computer screen or other reading materials every 10 minutes for about 10 seconds at a time. In addition, get up and move around or do some stretches every two hours or so.
- Get enough sleep. Fatigue can increase eyestrain, while rest refreshes tired eyes.
- See your eye doctor regularly. To catch potentially serious eye problems early, people ages 40 to 64 should have their eyes examined every two to four years and those who are age 65 and older should be tested every one to two years.
- Follow a diet that is very low in saturated fat. Saturated fat (generally, the kind of fat that is solid at room temperature) can cause plaque to build up along the walls of blood vessels, including those in the macula, which impedes blood flow. Whole, organic vegetables, fruit, legumes, whole soy products, whole grains, and wild-caught fish such as Alaskan salmon are good choices that are low in saturated fats.
- Eat antioxidant-rich berries and foods frequently. A lack of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, lutein, and zinc may increase the ability of plaque to stick to the blood vessel walls and promote macular damage. Berries, and blueberries in particular, can help provide some of these nutrients.
- Vitamin C. This potent antioxidant helps prevent free-radical damage to the eye, may delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), can lower pressure in the eye that’s associated with glaucoma, and reduces the likelihood of developing cataracts.
- Vitamin E. Along with vitamin C, zinc, and beta-carotene, vitamin E has been shown to prevent the development of macular degeneration.
- Zinc. In supplement form this mineral may help slow the development of AMD, probably by combating free radicals that can damage cells in the eye.
- Bilberry. An extract of this fruit, a close relative of the blueberry, provides concentrated flavonoid compounds that may help halt the progression of AMD.
- Pycnogenol. This extract of the bark of the French maritime pine (Pinus pinaster) contains proanthocyanidins, which may be useful in maintaining eye health by supporting and maintaining the natural regeneration of rhodopsin, a purple pigment of the retina used for night vision.