Seniors need to be especially careful to incorporate good practices that promote healthy eyesight. Vision loss can negatively affect the well-being of older adults in many ways. It develops so quickly, but poor eyesight can lead to those unexpected falls and fractures, which are increasingly serious, leading to hospitalization, disability, or even death. Among older people with vision impairment, 57.2% are at risk of mild or moderate depression compared to 43.5% of those without vision loss (Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness). Vision affects how well we read those pill bottles, which can lead to drug-related errors that affect our health. Poor vision complicates everyday issues like bathing, dressing, and walking around the house. It is critically important to take care of the vision we have. Here are the top 5 positive things you can do to protect your eyes:
- Get plenty of sleep.
Sleep deprivation leads to several problems, including weight gain, depression, and decreased immune function. Lack of sleep can also cause damage to your eyes that it perhaps not as obvious, but is just as real. It can cause symptoms like twitching, dry eyes, blurry vision, and pain. Be sure to get a minimum of seven hours a night and remember to put down that smartphone before bed.
Eat a well-balanced diet.
Diet and nutrition matter. Some fruits and vegetables are crucial for optimum eye health, especially ones with vitamins C and E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. The AAO suggests adding citrus fruits, vegetables, oils, nuts, whole grains, leafy greens, and fish to your meals as much as possible. We’ve all heard that eating lots of carrots is wonderful for your eyesight. In fact, studies show the carrot provides many benefits for healthy vision, but they aren’t a miraculous cure for vision difficulties. Because carrots are rich in vitamin A and lutein, they are always a good choice for a nutrient-packed snack. Enough water is equally as important as eating right. Staying hydrated is key for tear production and keeping eyes well-lubricated. Also, make sure to skip foods high in sodium, which can dehydrate your body.
Have an annual eye exam.
Even if you have 20/20 vision you should make that yearly visit. Think of it like you think of your dental check-up. It’s a smart idea. You might think your eyes are doing just fine, but visiting your eye doctor for a comprehensive dilated eye exam is the only way to really be sure. When it comes to common vision problems, some people don’t realize they could see better with glasses or contact lenses. A dilated eye exam is the only way to detect the early onset of eye diseases such as glaucoma, diabetic eye disease, and age-related macular degeneration, because these often have no warning signs. And because the back of the includes the optic nerve (an extension of the nervous system) some neurological diseases (like optic neuritis, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, and even aneurysms) can show up, too. “Checking your eyes annually is not just about your vision; it’s about your overall health,” says Dr. Marc Weinstein, optometrist.
Get regular exercise
Yes, it often seems like the answer to nearly every issue is to eat well, sleep well, and exercise; and this can become a cliché that is easily ignored. But as it turns out, this advice is actually true even when it comes to our vision. Our eyes need good blood circulation and oxygen intake, and both are stimulated by regular exercise. Regular exercise reduces your risk of diabetes which all too often leads to diabetic retinopathy. Do whatever you can to keep moving: walking, stretching, and even other forms of gentle exercise will help to maintain eye health. Of course, always remember to wear sunglasses if you exercise outside.
Change focus often.
Our eyes weren’t meant to stare at an electronic screen for hours. Don’t strain your eyes by keeping them fixated for too long on any one thing. Take a 30 second break every 15 minutes and a longer one every hour. During these breaks you can close your eyes and take 5 deep breaths. You can do a quick eye exercise. For example, look at something very close (like your nose) then focus on something far away (like across the room or out the window). Move your head from side to side with your eyes open and skim over objects in front of you. Or you can close your eyes and remember a relaxing, happy memory.
It’s easy to take our amazing gift of sight for granted. These eyes, which are miraculous, beautiful windows to the soul, deserve some TLC. They function better when we avoid the things that lead to disease and vision loss, and incorporate positive habits of healthy living that keep them relaxed and at their best.