How to protect your eyesight – five simple steps

It’s World Braille Day which got me thinking about eye health and how to improve eyesight.

Since my husband has been using computer screens his eyesight has deteriorated markedly. I know two teens with cataracts and a family member has a degenerative eye condition.

While we can’t always predict what our genes might have in store for us, there are things we can do to help support our eyes. In fact, The World Health Organisation (WHO) go so far to say that approximately 80% of all vision impairment globally is considered avoidable.

Cataracts

A cataract is a clouding of the lens in the eye which leads to a decrease in vision. Cataracts cause half of all cases of blindness and 33% of visual impairment worldwide.

WHO suggest that up to 20 per cent of cataracts may be caused by overexposure to UV radiation and are therefore avoidable. If you’re going out into strong sunshine, protect your eyes with a pair of sunglasses that filter out both UVA and UVB rays.

Talking about sun protection

Although eyes can be damaged by strong sunlight, there are also many proponents of using sunshine to IMPROVE the health of the eyes; as well as the rest of our bodies.

Sun gazing is the controversial practice of looking directly at the sun at sunset or sunrise; in other words, times of the day when UV radiations are lowest.

I first heard about it when researching the Bates Method. Dr William Bates was a ophthalmologist who attributed all sight problems and eye disease to habitual strain of the eyes. He taught 3 techniques to reduce strain of the eyes, one of which is sunning. Scientific research in this area is patchy, but anecdotal evidence is easy to find on the internet.

Take a break

If you’re using any type of computer screen for a long period of time, whether it’s a desktop, tablet or smartphone, it’s good to take regular breaks. And not just for the eyes, it’s good to get up and stretch anyway. So while you’re stretching and moving your body, incorporate some of the following eye exercises:

  • Follow the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, stop staring at your screen computer and look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Then blink 20 times. This protects against eye strain and tired eyes.
  • Keeping your head still, circle your eyes ten times clockwise and ten times anti clockwise. This is a great way to wake up tired eyes.
  • Hold a pen at arms length, focus your eyes on it and slowly bring the pen towards you until it’s 6 inches away from your nose. Repeat 10 times.
  • Gently rest your palms over your closed eyes and take a few deep breaths while you relax. See if you can stop all those flashing colours and experience total darkness for a few moments.

Eat your way to healthy eyes

You’ve probably heard that eating carrots help you see in the dark, and there might be a good reason for this belief!

Vision Direct tell us that vitamins A, C and E are good for eye health. The best way to get a good balance of these vitamins is to eat rainbow coloured foods! Tomatoes, peppers, carrots, blueberries and green leafy vegetables are all helpful.

Another little-talked-about nutrient is lutein. There is some interesting research being done in the roles of lutein and zeaxanthin and their roles in eye health. This BBC article is fascinating.

If you want to skip the research and just get onboard, then making a smoothie is a great way to introduce more of these nutrients into your diet. Here are two recipes to try:

Cataract Fighting Smoothie
[from Your Sight Matters.]

Ingredients

6 strawberries
1 kiwi, peeled
1 orange, peeled, pith and seeds removed
2 handfuls baby spinach
½ cup of Almond Milk
8 cubes of Ice
Drizzle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Method

Prepare fruit for blender
Add all ingredients to blender, add spinach a little at time
Add ice, I like my smoothie cold but it helps puree the smoothie to a nicer consistency too.
Finish smoothie with Extra Olive Oil, blend until perfectly smooth

Eye Health Smoothie
[from the BBC series, “Trust me I’m a Doctor“]

Ingredients

65g/2¼oz cooked kale
1 tbsp almond butter
½ tsp wheatgerm oil
160ml/5½fl oz semi-skimmed milk
½ small banana
90g/3¼oz kiwi fruit, peeled
85g/3oz tinned pineapple chunks in water
½ medium apple, peeled and cored
5g fresh mint leaves
½ lime, juice only

Method

In a food processor or high-powered blender, combine the kale, almond butter, wheatgerm oil and small amount of the milk. Blend to a smooth paste.

Add the remaining ingredients (including the rest of the milk) and continue to blend until smooth.

Visit your optician.

The current recommendation is to visit an optician every two years (more if your optician recommends it). As well as checking your sight and ensuring you have the correct glasses prescription they can look for early signs of glaucoma, AMD and cataracts while they are still treatable. During your test, your option can also check for sighs of diabetes, high blood pressure and even brain tumours.

What about you – what do you do to support the health of your eyes?

how to improve eyesight - five easy steps

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