People who have advanced eye disease have waited too long to improve their vision health. Keeping the eyes health is a lifetime endeavor. An unhealthy lifestyle and poor nutrition lead to a higher risk of eye diseases. Researchers have linked cataracts, macular degeneration, glaucoma, optic neuropathy, retinal vein occlusions, and other eye conditions to mostly-controllable risk factors. Seniors are especially at risk. Natural Eye Care offers this guide to improving vision health.
Exercise for the Body
Daily exercise is key to vision health. The American Medication Association recommends walking briskly for 30 minutes per day at the least. Even this very modest amount of exercise increases lifespan and improves overall health.
Exercise is important throughout life. However, as people age, a sedentary lifestyle catches up with them. Weight gain, poor muscle tone, and lack of flexibility reduce quality and length of life. Heart disease and diabetes are very real threats. Exercise has been shown to improve vision health.1
A complete workout routine is best. You need cardio (aerobic exercise), strength training, and stretching. Even the least expensive fitness centers offer all three. Seniors often qualify for a discount. Plan on working out 3 to 5 times per week. People over age 50 should do strength training only twice per week, as their muscle builds more slowly. Work out with a buddy, or on your way to a coffee break. Owning a dog requires outdoor exercise.
Exercise Your Eyes
Only six small muscles control each of your eyes. If these muscles are weak, strained or misused, the eyes do not work properly. A few daily eye exercises keep these tiny muscles strong. This can help prevent myopia, farsightedness, and astigmatism. Eye exercises also relieve eye strain from screen time and reading. Eye exercises improve circulation, bringing more nutrients to the eyes. Ageing individuals need gentle exercise of all muscle groups to help maintain their health.
Natural Eye Care has developed a set of easy eye exercises. Click to order the free ebook.
Outdoor activities expose you to fresh air and sunshine. Sunlight activates ATP in the mitochondria, giving you more energy. When sunlight hits your eyes, your brain produces chemicals that make you wakeful and alert. Sunlight improves mood. Your body manufactures Vitamin D with just 10 minutes of sunlight exposure. Outdoor activity and sunlight may protect against myopia.
On the other hand, people are living longer and the atmospheric gasses have changed. Sunlight contains ultra-violet A, ultraviolet B, and blue light. These wavelengths of light damage the eye over time. As we age, the eye’s lens develops cataracts, which act like natural sunglasses. Unfortunately, cataracts dull colors and obstruct vision, eventually possibly leading to legal blindness if untreated. Natural eye drops and supplements have the potential of managing and even reversing cataracts in the early stages. However, cataract surgery is the only medical treatment. UV radiation and blue light also harm the retina, leading some people to develop macular degeneration.
Oxidative stress and free radicals from sunshine wreak havoc on eyes, though eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and taking targeted supplement can go a long way in neutralizing free radical activity, reducing the risk of macular degeneration and maintaining healthy vision.
Plan on spending time outdoors every day. After about 10 minutes, put on quality sunglasses — see our sunglasses guide.
Better Screen Habits
Computers, TVs, tablets, games, and smartphones are modern miracles. However, they are not miracles for our vision. On the contrary, an epidemic of eye disease and conditions could be on the horizon from excessive screen time.
LCD screens expose the eye to blue light. Blue light has been proven to damage the retina. Many people hold screens close to the face or at less-than-arm’s-length. Close-up focusing for extended periods weakens the eyes’ muscles and causes eye strain and headaches.
Resolve to develop better screen habits.
- Limit screen time to less than 6 hours per day, if possible.
- Put away your phone and socialize with those around you.
- For every 20 minutes looking at a screen, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This relaxes the tiny eye muscles.
- Blink more often when using electronics. Staring at screens lowers our blink rate.
- Use an app to reduce blue light from the screen, especially before bed.
- Read a paper book or a Kindle Paperwhite.
- Turn down screen brightness
- Never look at your cell phone in bed with the lights out. The pupils dilate in darkness, letting even more blue light from the phone in. Always turn on ambient lighting.
- Stop using electronic equipment at least 2 hours before bedtime. Read a book instead.
Cleaning the eyes is not part of a typical grooming regimen. Anyone who has suffered through blepharitis or eye sties has learned their lesson! Daily cleansing with a baby shampoo dilution helps prevent infection and inflammation. Additionally, cleaning can be helpful for people with dry eye syndrome. See our eye wash instructions.
With eye makeup, beware of contamination. If the product has a foul odor, discard it. Never share makeup. If eye makeup causes irritation, discontinue use.
Better Diet for Better Vision
Many studies have shown that nutrition has a direct impact on vision health. For example, a diet high in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables) protects the eyes from free radical damage. Compare your current diet to the Mediterranean Diet. Could you gradually cut back on junk food, white flour, and fatty meats? Replace them with fresh fruits, lean protein, and whole grains.
The links between excessive weight and eye disease have not yet been established clearly (2017).2 If you exercise regularly and eat a proper diet, weight will start to balance itself out. Obesity leads to insulin resistance, also called Type II Diabetes. Diabetic patients can develop diabetic retinopathy, a serious eye condition.
Even a balanced diet rarely contains all the nutrients needed for the eyes. Eye tissues are the most nutrient-hungry tissues in the body second only to the brain, proportional to their size. A significant body research has found which nutrients the eyes needs the most.
Babies gestated in industrialized countries are rarely born with eye damage due to malnutrition. Eye disease is most common in seniors. Digestion becomes less efficient, so fewer nutrients are absorbed from food. Calorie needs are lower due to a slower metabolism. Appetite may be low. Cumulative lifetime damage from ultraviolet and blue light takes its toll. Getting enough nutrients from the diet becomes an uphill battle.
Supplements can help provide the needed nutrients. For example, Dr. Grossman’s Advanced Eye and Vision Support Formula contains targeted nutrition for the eyes. This organic, GMO-free whole food formula includes herbs and antioxidants for vision health, including zeaxanthin, lutein, chlorella, bilberry, carrot root, broccoli and more.
Certain eye conditions are linked to a deficiency of specific nutrients. Also, some nutrients lower the risk of developing eye diseases. See our eye conditions pages.
One of the best actions you can take for your vision is to avoid smoking. Tobacco smoke causes free radical damage. Smokers have a higher risk of developing optic neuropathy (16 times more likely), diabetic retinopathy (2x), uveitis (2x), cataracts (3x for men; 63% more for women), macular degeneration (2x – 3x), and dry eye syndrome (2x). The sooner smokers quit, the better.
Regular Dilated Eye Exams
Adults aged 40 and older should get a comprehensive, dilated eye exam from an ophthalmologist as a baseline. For age 40-56: every 2 to 4 years. Age 55 to 64: every 1 to 3 years. Age 65 and up: every 1 to 2 years.3. Patients with eye conditions, eye disease, risk factors, or chronic diseases such as diabetes need annual exams, or as recommended by the eye doctor.
If You Have an Eye Disease
Natural Eye Care provides resources for preventing and supporting eye diseases and healthy vision. If your eye doctor has diagnosed you with an eye disease, check out our page on eye diseases. We also offer a free vision consultation by phone. Our monthly newsletter delivers helpful articles directly to your inbox. We also post daily on Facebook and Twitter.
People of all ages can take steps to prevent eye disease. Get sufficient exercise, protect your eyes from sun and screen damage, and ingest the right nutrients.
- “Aerobic Exercise Protects Retinal Function and Structure from Light-Induced Retinal Degeneration” (The Journal of Neuroscience, Vol. 34, No. 7, P. 2406), Eric C. Lawson et al. ↩
- Surv Ophthalmol. 2007; 52(2): 180–195. doi: 10.1016/j.survophthal.2006.12.003 PMCID: PMC2698026 “Obesity and Eye Diseases” by Ning Cheung et al. ↩
- American Academy of Ophthalmology ↩