Keeping Your Eyes Healthy
One of the great joys of living through your 20s and 30s is that for most of us, most health concerns seem to be a lifetime away. The problems that come with ageing, like back pain and failing eyesight are far into the future and for many it can remain that way. Taking care of yourself when you’re young will ensure that many ailments can be pushed back well into old age.
While diet is foremost in the minds of many – limiting the intake of sugar, salt, fats and alcohol has obvious and immediate health benefits that directly affect eye health. Maintaining eye health is not something most of us pay much attention to. It’s a pity because we only have one set of eyes and if they are well cared for, many of the problems associated with old age and eye health can easily be avoided.
Early Action Plan
Do some background research and know your own family history. If your parents or grandparents suffered from certain illnesses or conditions, you are at greater risk of developing them too. Many eye diseases are hereditary and being aware of the risk enables you to take appropriate preventative methods, to hopefully avoid the fate they endured. You will also be in a stronger position to identify any early warning signs and symptoms, which will allow an optometrist to provide an effective course of treatment for any conditions as they arise.
Common vision problems can often go unrecognised and in some cases – age-related macular degeneration, diabetic eye disease and glaucoma – have no outward warning signs. In their early stages, the only way to detect these problems and get treatment is with a dilated eye examination. Having regular eye tests are one of the most important things you can do to catch these harmful disorders. Eye examinations need to be comprehensive and should be carried out by trusted eye care professionals.
Eat Well, Be Well
We’ve all heard it before – we are what we eat, or rather the food we consume directly impacts our overall health. A diet full of fruits and vegetables is crucial to maintain optimal eye health throughout our lives. Dark leafy greens including cabbage, spinach and kale, provide essential minerals and vitamins which assist the maintenance of good eye health. Research has also shown the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids readily found in salmon and tuna are also great for supporting eye health. A dinner of pan-seared tuna with a leafy spinach salad is not only delicious but will support long-term eye health. The benefits of a balanced diet also helps to maintain your weight and reduce the chance of developing systemic conditions like diabetes – a major contributor to vision impairment through diseases like glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
Kick That Bad Habit
Smoking is one of the most damaging habits you can pick up. It will impair the health of your eyes and body. If you are a long-term smoker or have just started, try your best to kick the habit. Younger smokers are at greater risk of developing life threatening illnesses like cancer as well as causing lasting damage to their eyes. Smoking has been linked to an increased risk in developing optic nerve damage, cataracts and age-related macular degeneration – diseases which lead to blindness which may not develop until many years after you stop smoking.
Protection Supports Prevention
Wearing sunglasses is one thing, wearing sunglasses that do their job – protecting your eyes – is quite another. More than buying a fashion accessory, it’s important to buy sunglasses that actually block the sun’s ultra-violet rays. Ensure that your next pair blocks 100% of both UV-A and UV-B radiation. It is equally important to avoid eye strain, as many of us spend a significant amount of time working close up, looking at computer screens or reading a books. Relax your eyes, alleviate the stress and remember the 20:20:20 rule: every 20 minutes, focus 20 metres away for 20 at least seconds. This simple exercise goes a long way in protecting your vision for the long term.
If it is recommended that you wear protective eyewear for work, when playing a sport or performing any other activities, be sure to adhere to that advice. It may seem obvious but it’s surprising how frequently we perform quick but dangerous tasks without the use of protective eyewear. One slip and the potential for damage is often painful and permanent. This extends to dirty hands if you wear contact lenses, or when rubbing your eyes. Clean your hands, and clean your contact lenses as instructed.
Many of these recommendations are simply tips to a healthy lifestyle. Yet it’s distressing how many of us fail to do what we know is good for us, whilst knowing the consequences of our actions. One Australian is diagnosed with diabetes every five minutes and while not all cases are dietary related, just about everyone with diabetes will suffer vision impairment to some degree. Why take that chance? Protect your eyes while you’re young, so they can look after you when you’re old.
Adrian is a freelance writer whose passions include business, marketing, and technology.
In his spare time you will find him outdoors enjoying Sydney’s beautiful weather while training for his next marathon.