It’s easy to forget, but your eyes, like every other organ, need to be cared for and maintained as you get older. Eyesight is something most of us take for granted, but it’s estimated that up to half of adults develop some kind of cataracts by the time they are 75 years old. The good news is that there’s a lot you can do for your eyes, no matter what your age may be. Some of these things are lifestyle measures, and others have to do with nutrition and supplementation. To learn more about your eyes: how to care for them and what you can do to protect them, keep scrolling down.
Why Your Vision Gets Worse Over Time
There are a few major reasons behind why our eyesight worsens over time. One of the main factors is an imbalance in the body called oxidative stress.
If you’ve never heard the term, oxidative stress occurs when the production of free radicals is too high for the body to fight them off. Free radicals are molecules that contain oxygen, and because of the way they are designed, they can set off chemical reactions in the body that are potentially harmful.
Over the long term, oxidative stress can damage tissue throughout the body, including the eyes. Research shows that oxidative stress can have degenerative effects on the retina and may contribute to complications and visual impairment.
Another factor behind why vision deteriorates over time is poor diet. The American diet is one that may be especially threatening to eye health because it is full of inflammatory foods. Refined carbohydrates, sugary snacks, breads and many other junk foods create inflammation in the body, which over time can have a negative impact on our eyes, and contribute to a host of eye-related disorders.
Sedentary Lifestyle And Obesity
A lack of physical exercise and fitness can also contribute to poor eye health. According to Johns Hopkins University, a long-term study of 15,000 participants concluded that those who were physically active over a span of 20 years developed less vision loss than those who were not (source). Exercise is a key to maintaining overall wellness, and when it comes to eye health, this is no exception.
Along those same lines, obesity can contribute to vision problems as well. Many studies show that obesity may potentially increase the likelihood of developing eye complications due to age. It is also likely that obesity contributes to the build up of fluid inside the eye from high blood pressure, which may possibly contribute to vision loss.
What You Can Do To Protect Your Vision
Although vision problems may seem like a natural part of aging, there are many practical steps you can take to help maintain your eyesight. Here are some of the most eye health vitamins.
The Best Vitamins For Eye Health
Probably the most well-known eye vitamin, lutein is derived from foods such as egg yolks, leafy-green vegetables, and citrus fruits. Lutein is a plant nutrient (phytonutrient) that helps protect against age-related vision decline.
It appears that the function of lutein in the natural world is to help prevent plants from absorbing too much light, especially from powerful ‘blue light’ rays. Blue light, if you’re not familiar, is a type of light ray emitted by the sun as well as man made sources such as , fluorescent lights, screens, smartphones, and many other electronic devices. These light rays have both positive and negative effects. However, research shows that too much exposure to blue light can damage sensitive cells in the retina, and eventually lead to vision loss.
There are ways to help protect yourself from overexposure to blue light. Lutein along with zeaxanthin (discussed below), help filter blue light and lessen macular oxidative stress.
Your body does not naturally produce lutein; however, there are several food sources you can consume to up your intake of the nutrient. These foods include the following: carrots, spinach, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts, peas and eggs.
Zeaxanthin is a type of carotenoid, which are plant pigments that usually account for the orange or red hue in fruits and veggies. Zeaxanthin, like lutein helps protect the supports the eye’s tissues, lens, and macula, which can help make vision clearer and lessen eye sensitivity. Lutein and Zeaxanthin, cannot be manufactured by the body. Therefore, the only way to get zeaxanthin is to get through diet or a supplement.
To raise your intake of zeaxanthin, try incorporating these foods into your diet: collard greens, turnip greens, corn, broccoli, spinach and kale.
One of the key benefits of vitamin C for your eyes is its antioxidant properties. As you may remember from our earlier discussion, oxidative stress is at the root of many vision problems. Antioxidants help combat free radicals, which in turn lowers oxidative stress, and vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant.
In addition to its antioxidant benefits, vitamin C has anti-inflammatory properties and helps the body absorb important trace minerals. Some research indicates that taking vitamin C may help protect the body from vision deterioration in old age.
Some high vitamin C foods include the following: black currants, citrus fruits, green and red peppers, brussels sprouts, berries, tomatoes, and sprouts.
This vitamin, when taken in combination with vitamin A, can help maintain the strength of cells and tissue within the body. Some research indicates that vitamin E may also have protective effects on the eyes, especially regarding age-related changes in vision.
To add more vitamin E to your diet, add these foods to the menu: peanuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, broccoli, almonds, spinach, and vegetable oils.
In general, zinc is a powerful mineral that can help strengthen the immune system and heal wounds. However, it also may have some specific benefits for the eyes. Some research shows that when taken in combination with other vitamins, Zinc may have protective effects on the retina. In fact, Zinc is highly concentrated in the retina and in the vascular tissue layer beneath.
Zinc also may benefit tissues within the eyes because it aids in proper cell division and cell growth, promoting healthy blood flow, and regulating hormones and immune response.
The following foods are high in Zinc: beans, legumes, shellfish, eggs and meat (including beef, lamb, pork and red meat in general.)
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Another powerful anti-inflammatory agent, omega-3’s are also thought to have numerous health benefits for the eyes. Several studies indicate that omega-3’s may help protect macular health. According to the Mayo Clinic News Network, omega-3’s may also be beneficial for relieving symptoms of dry eyes. The physical structure of our retinas contain high levels of DHA. DHA or docosahexaenoic acid is a form of omega-3 Fatty Acid. It is now believed that omega-3’s are important to maintaining healthy tears and retinal function.
These foods for eye health are also high in omega-3s: mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, herring, caviar, flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soybeans.
4 Lifestyle Factors That Promote Eye Health
Besides diet and nutritional support, there are other measures you can take to protect and care for your eyes. These tips can help you maintain good vision and lower your risk of developing eye problems later in life.
1. Practice Healthy Screen Time
With cell phones, computers and tablets at every turn, developing healthy screen habits has become increasingly important for our eye health. Staring at computer screens for hours a day can lead to a host of problems, including eye strain, headaches, blurred vision, and dry eyes.
Here are some steps you can take to practice healthy screen time:
- Make sure your glasses prescription is current and up-to-date
- If eye strain continues to be an issue, ask your opthamologist about specialized computer glasses.
- If possible, avoid screen glare from windows and lights.Important! Observe the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes, rest your eyes; look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Also, take at least a 15 minute screen break every two hours. (source)
2. Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses offer UV protection, and in many ways are like sunscreen for your eyes. When UV exposure is too high, it can increase the chances of developing degenerative eye conditions later in life. Here are a couple of considerations for choosing the best sunglasses for your eyes.
- Look for sunglasses that block 99% to 100% of UVA and UVB sunlight.
- Wraparound sunglasses will also help block sunlight coming into the side of the eye. (source)
3. Limit Exposure To Blue Light
As we mentioned before, blue light over time can have harmful effects on the eyes, especially the retina. Although it is impossible to completely eliminate exposure to blue light, it is possible to cut down on blue light exposure through screens. If you have a smartphone, tablet, or computer, look for blue-light-blocking apps and software. These simple programs will remove blue light from your display and help reduce stress on your eyes.
- Free software like Flux, can help eliminate blue light from your screen. Since blue light from screens is also known to disrupt circadian rhythms, it can also help you sleep! (click here to download Flux).
- On your smartphone or tablet, just go to the app store and type in “blue light reduction” for options.
4. Stay Active
Finding simple ways to stay active is a major key to enjoying a high quality of life as we age. As we now know, it also can have protective benefits for our eyes. You may be a seasoned athlete, but even if you’re just starting out, research reveals that even a 10-minute burst of exercise can have major health benefits (To read more, click here!) To start getting active, here are some actionable steps you can take:
- Check out the local fitness center, especially their group classes. Most fitness centers have classes based on intensity and interest.
- Find a walking buddy. If you like to walk, make a ritual of walking with friends once or twice a week. You will feel more enriched for having done it!
- If you’re going short distances, consider riding a bike instead of driving.
- If you want to ease into exercise, consider looking for water sports. Group water activities can often be a light way to get active, and it’s easy on the joints.
Your eyesight is a precious thing, and with modern electronics, there is more stress on the eyes than ever before. Thankfully there are many simple things you can do to make sure that you care for your eyes as you age. Your lifestyle and diet will play a major role, and finding ways to get the proper nutrients and vitamins will be key. To learn more about your health, keep reading at procerahealth.com. We regularly update our blog with new articles about health and wellness.