It’s not uncommon to set new health goals at the start of a calendar year. Though these might include exercising more or trying a new stress-reduction technique, your eyes deserve similar attention. If you’re making changes for an even better you this year, here are some eye health basics to keep in mind.
1. Your Eyes Are Impacted by What You Eat
Fruits, vegetables, and healthy proteins do a body good for a reason — and that includes your eyes. Studies have shown that leafy greens, nuts and seeds, fatty fish and lean beef, sweet potatoes and, yes, carrots are all beneficial to your eye health.
Though you may be tempted to pop an extra supplement or two to give your eyes the nutrients they need, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics advises that “your best sources of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants are from whole foods, since it may be a combination of nutrients within that provide these benefits.”
2. Smoke Really Does Get in Your Eyes
If you’ve been resolving to quit smoking, don’t blink twice about doing so. Among its many health dangers, smoking increases your risk for ocular disorders, including retinal ischemia, anterior ischemic optic neuropathy, and Graves ophthalmopathy, beyond general vision loss that may come with aging. Cataracts and macular degeneration also tend to develop more in smokers than non-smokers. So if you need yet another reason to quit, let your eyes be your guide.
3. Wearing Shades will Brighten Your Eyes’ Future
We know that even on overcast days, its rays can impact your skin, but the sun can also cause significant damage to your eyes. Though the rack at the drugstore may offer snazzy choices, make sure to select a high-quality pair that blocks at least 99% of UVA and UVB rays. (This includes for children too.) Also remember that in winter weather, snow reflects 80% of UV rays from the sun, so pack those sunglasses for the ski slopes as well.
4. Shield Yourself from Screens
“Since Covid began,” Dr. Kara Hartl writes in the Harvard Business Review, “screen times have increased around the world, and doubled among children in the U.S. Another study conducted during the pandemic shows that people who spent more time in front of their screens had an increased risk of eye strain.”
Though complete screen escape may be impossible, we recommend following the 20-20-20 rule as advised by the American Academy of Ophthalmology: every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
5. An Eye Exam Goes Beyond What the Eye Can See
Unlike other parts of our body, where lumps, bumps, or other problems such as a cough or nausea are evident, common eye diseases aren’t as easily identifiable. Many that can cause vision loss or blindness may not have any early symptoms at all. “A comprehensive dilated eye exam,” the CDC advises, “by an optometrist or ophthalmologist (eye doctor), is necessary to find eye diseases in the early stages when treatment to prevent vision loss is most effective.”
Your regular eye exam may also reveal other conditions you haven’t yet detected, including diabetes, inflammation, hypertension, and some forms of metastatic cancer. “Eye exams are important not only for the health of the eye,” asserts ophthalmologist Rishi P. Singh, MD “but also to determine if there are issues affecting multiple organs or the entire body that need attention.” This is why we encourage you to keep up with your annual eye exams this year — or at least resolve to start scheduling them. Request an appointment with us online or call to schedule at (404) 351-2220.