If you’ve been blessed with good eyesight, it’s easy to take your eyes for granted. However, vision problems can seriously affect your life over time. In fact, vision loss can lower your quality of life and increase your risk of depression, diabetes and other health problems, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Practicing simple daily habits can help improve your eye health and reduce the risk of problems in the future.
Want more health tips? See why omega-3 rich foods offer health benefits, why your glasses fog up and how to stop it, and the right sunglasses color for eye health.
Exposure of your eyes to UV rays can cause damage over time. Wearing sunglasses can block harmful ultraviolet light, reducing the risk of eye diseases such as cataracts, sunburn, eye cancer and growths around the eye, according to the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Polarized glasses with smoke or gray lenses can offer the best protection against the sun’s rays and reduce glare.
Pause the screen
Prolonged screen time can cause dry eyes, neck and shoulder pain, blurred vision, headaches, and digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20-20-20 rule to prevent computer vision syndrome. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
Take book breaks too
Screen time isn’t the only way to strain your eyes. When you read a book, you probably also keep it close for a long time. Both of these activities can lead to myopia, or myopia, which means distant objects are blurred while things up close are clear. Just as you should use the 20-20-20 rule to take screen breaks, you should also use this rule for book breaks. If you find yourself engrossed in what you’re reading or doing on the computer, set an alarm so you don’t miss the 20-minute break.
Move your body
Regular exercise can provide eye health benefits, such as promoting healthy blood vessels and reducing the risk of developing glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, the AAO reports. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week, plus two days of strength training for your muscles. You can also practice eye exercises to reduce eye strain and fatigue while sitting at your desk.
Read more: Get More Exercise Into Your Daily Life: 7 Steps That Really Work
Children and adults should get outside often, even if you do the recommended exercise indoors. Research shows that children who spend time outdoors have a lower risk of developing nearsightedness as teenagers and as adults. Playing with your kids at the local playground, taking a walk in the woods, or even playing in the backyard can help the whole family stay healthy and active. Don’t forget the sunglasses!
It is well known that smoking is harmful to health. It can also increase your risk of developing eye diseases such as cataracts or age-related macular degeneration, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Smokers have two or three times the risk of developing cataracts and up to four times the risk of AMD. Future research may determine whether cigarette smoking may also cause glaucoma, Graves’ eye disease, thyroid eye disease, and promote the onset or progression of diabetic retinopathy. To improve your health, build a quit plan.
Eat a balanced diet
The foods you eat every day can improve your eye health. Eating foods rich in vitamins A, C, and E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin, and zinc can help cell growth, reduce eye tissue inflammation, and limit free radicals that can to damage your eyes.
To get the right nutrients for your eyes, eat a balanced diet by including some of these foods in your regular diet, recommended by the AAO:
- Vitamin A and beta-carotene: Apricots, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, paprika, ricotta cheese, mango.
- Vitamin C: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons, tangerines, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, red pepper.
- Vitamin E: Avocado, almonds, peanut butter, wheat germ, sunflower seeds.
- Omega 3: halibut, sardines, salmon, tuna, trout.
- Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Christmas, broccoli, eggs, peas, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, turnip greens.
- Zinc: Lima beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lean red meat, oysters, fortified cereals, poultry.
Avoid rubbing your eyes
If you habitually rub your eyes, it can cause eye damage or infections. Dry eyes and eye strain can make you want to rub your eyes, and some may rub them too much or too hard. This can lead to problems such as reduced or blurred vision, headaches, inflammation, eye and light sensitivity. Another reason to avoid rubbing your eyes is that bacteria or viruses on your fingers or hands can lead to conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye. Instead of rubbing your eyes, use eye drops or saline solution to clean your eyes and keep them moist. Resist the urge and find something else to keep your hands busy until you kick the habit.
Read more: 7 Home Remedies for Dry, Itchy Eyes
Wash your hands
You should always wash your hands before touching your face or eyes and handling contact lenses. Almost 45 million Americans wear contact lenses, and about 1 in 3 wearers develop complications, with 1 in 5 contact lens infections causing corneal damage.
Also, there’s no telling what kind of germs are on the objects you touch after someone has unknowingly infected them. Regular hand washing can reduce the risk of respiratory illness by up to 21 percent and diarrhea by up to 40 percent, the CDC reports.
Take off your makeup
After a long day, the last thing you might think about is removing your eye makeup before bed. But it’s good for your eye health and can reduce your risk of blepharitis, or inflammation of the eyelids, according to the Optometrists Network.
You should also adopt good makeup practices that can save your skin and eyes, such as using only products made for eyes, changing your makeup often (especially after an eye infection), not applying eye makeup indoors eyelids and never share eye makeup with anyone else. If you use brushes or sponges to apply eye makeup, wash them regularly.