As we age, vision loss is a common condition that is seen with many people, which can be due to many different reasons such as genetics, environmental and lifestyle factors, and/or other medical conditions. Below will include lifestyle modifications you can do everyday to prevent vision loss and improve your vision health.
Below are important vitamins/supplements that can help with eye health along with example foods.
|Vitamin/ Supplement||Example foods|
|Carotenoids (Lutein and Zeaxanthin)||Leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach, swiss chard), broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, peas, romaine lettuce, eggs, colorful fruits (raspberries, papaya, peach, mango)|
|Omega-3 fatty acid||Fish and other seafood (cold water fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, sardine), nuts and seeds (chia seed, flax seed, walnut)|
|Vitamin E||Almonds, sunflower seeds, olive oil, avocado|
|Vitamin C||Citrus fruits (orange, lemon, lime), grapefruit, kiwi, strawberry, tomato, broccoli, red and green pepper|
|Vitamin A||Sweet potato (contains 200% vitamin A recommended daily intake), spinach, carrot, red pepper, yellow fruits (mango, papaya, apricot), cheese/milk, yogurt, eggs|
|Zinc||Legumes (beans, lentils), seeds, oysters, shellfish, lean red meat, dairy, eggs, fortified cereal|
UV sun protection
Sunglasses are just as important as sunscreen! Each time you expose your eyes to the sun, you increase your chance of eye cancer, cataracts, sunburned eyes, and tissue growths on and near the eyes.
What you can do to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays
- Wear sunglasses labeled UV400 or 100% UV protection
- Wear a hat along with sunglasses
- Don’t stare directly at the sun
- Sunlight is strongest during midday to early afternoon
- Avoid tanning beds
After 20 minutes of staring at the computer screen, you should look away from the computer and look at something that is 20 feet away from you, for 20 seconds. This will help ease your eyes from eye strain from starting at the computer for so long.
Blue Light Protection
There are some studies that say blue light is beneficial for our eyes while others say blue light is harmful to our eyes. More research is needed to find out which is correct. While minimal blue light exposure may not be harmful, excessive amounts of blue light exposure has been linked with risk of different eye diseases.
Some ways you can protect your eyes from blue light
- Decrease screen time, take breaks
- Wear sunglasses
- Blue light screen filters on laptop, phone
- Change your light settings on your phone (switch to yellow light mode during nighttime)
- Blue light blocking eyeglasses if you wear glasses
- Wear tinted yellow light computer glasses
Smoking increases your risk of age related macular degeneration, cataracts, retinal detachment, diabetic retinopathy, dry eye syndrome, uveitis (eye inflammation), glaucoma, and many other eye conditions. It is never too late to quit smoking and is highly recommended to seek a healthcare professional for smoking cessation to help you successfully quit.
Multiple studies found engaging in physical activity and exercise were less likely to develop certain eye conditions including glaucoma, age related macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Exercise has a positive impact on our overall health including heart and blood health, brain, psychological, bone health, and etc. However, more research is needed to find out how exercise can improve eye health specifically.
We often forget our eyes have muscles too. Exercising the eyes can have a positive impact on eye muscle control and improve your visual skill. For this eye exercise, take a moment to look in all directions very slowly. For example, look to the right, left, up, and down for 10 seconds each.
Another exercise you can do is hold up your thumbs in the air, one closer to your eyes and one further away from your eyes, then take 2 seconds each to focus on the closer thumb, far thumb, something across the room, then something even further away. This exercises your eyes to help focus on looking at something that is near-sided vs. far-sided.
Don’t sleep with contact lenses in
Sleeping with contacts increases the chance of eye infection, by trapping the bacteria in your eyes that your contacts had been exposed to while wearing them. Sleeping with contacts also deprives your eyes from getting enough oxygen and rest. Because of these reasons, it is important to create a habit to always take your contacts out before going to bed. Make sure you also wash your hands before putting in or taking out your contact lenses, to prevent contaminating them.
Learning your family history of an eye condition (including bad eyesight, glaucoma, cataract, diabetic retinopathy, etc.) is very important to find out early if you may also be having the same condition. Even if you are unsure if your family member has an eye condition, it is still important to see your eye doctor to make sure your eyes are healthy.
- Generally, a regular eye exam at least every 2 years is recommended until around age 60.
- Seniors are more likely to develop vision problems after the age 60 and are recommended to get checked up at least once every year.
- If you or your family member has a history of an eye condition, it is recommended to get checked up regularly or at least once every year to watch out for any vision problems.
- There are some medications that can affect the eyes as well and may need to seek an eye doctor more often. Please check with your healthcare provider to see if your medication(s) may affect eye health.
It is very important to understand if your family member has a history of glaucoma. Glaucoma is an irreversible eye disease that damages the optic nerve, which progressively leads to blindness. Glaucoma is a serious disabling eye condition, but can be controlled and prevented from further damage if detected early. Maintaining a low eye pressure is a good way to prevent increased risk of developing glaucoma. There are no symptoms of having elevated eye pressure, so it is important to get your eyes checked up regularly. Generally, the baseline age to get your eyes checked up for glaucoma is 40. However, if you or your family member has a history of glaucoma, you should seek an eye doctor now to determine how often it is needed to get checked up.
Ways to lower eye pressure
- Reduce the amount of caffeine (coffee, caffeinated drinks/tea, herbal teas, chocolate)
- Quit smoking
- Avoid daily alcohol consumption
- Avoid head down position (caution with yoga head down positions)
- Moderate physical activity
- Consult with eye doctor about exercising tips
- Aerobic exercise
- Generally, aerobic exercises lowers the eye pressure but those with glaucoma need to proceed with caution. Check with your eye doctor on what you can do safely.
- Don’t hold your breath during weight lifting exercise
- Weight lifting increases the eye pressure, especially when the breath is held when exercising
- Practice breathing techniques for inhaling and exhaling
- Aerobic exercise
People with diabetes are at increased risk for diabetic retinopathy, which is due to poorly controlled blood sugar levels. Diabetic retinopathy is an irreversible eye condition that can lead to blindness if left untreated. Not only is it important for people with diabetes to keep a healthy diet/weight, it is just as important for people without diabetes, since as we age we are at increased risk for diabetes and other health conditions.
Tips for People with Diabetes
- Take medications on time (insulin and/or other medications)
- Check blood sugar level often
Tips for Everyone
- Avoid fatty processed meals, canned foods, fast foods
- Limit your sugar intake
- Focus on whole foods
- These are only a partial list of tips for a healthy diet. Please see your healthcare provider to find out which diet plan may be the best fit for you.
While these are all helpful tips to help with vision, they may not be enough to stop/reverse an eye disease, and are only meant to help with general eye health. If you want to learn more or are concerned about your eye health, please seek a physician who specializes in eye health.
Prepared By: Susan Kim, PharmD Candidate 2022
American Optometric Association. Diet and Nutrition. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.aoa.org/healthy-eyes/caring-for-your-eyes/diet-and-nutrition?sso=y
Boyd, K. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2020, January 16). Smoking and Eye Disease. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/smokers
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). National Diabetes Statistics Report 2020 Estimates of Diabetes and Its Burden in the United States. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/pdfs/data/statistics/national-diabetes-statistics-report.pdf
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021, August 10). Tips to Prevent Vision Loss. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.cdc.gov/visionhealth/risk/tips.htm.
Glaucoma Research Foundation. (2020, January 9). Five Common Glaucoma Tests. Accessed on October 13, 2021, from Five Common Glaucoma Tests | Glaucoma Research Foundation
Lazarus, R. Optometrists Network. (2021, April 21). Smoking and Glaucoma. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.optometrists.org/general-practice-optometry/guide-to-eye-conditions/glaucoma-guide/can-i-prevent-glaucoma/smoking-and-glaucoma/.
Mukamal, R. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2020, October 16). Exercise May Stave Off Eye Disease, Study Finds. Accessed on October 8, 2021, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/exercise-may-slow-prevent-eye-disease-study-finds
Ong, Sharon. Springer Nature. (2018, April 3). Physical activity, visual impairment, and eye disease. Accessed on October 8, 2021, from Physical activity, visual impairment, and eye disease | Eye (nature.com)
Pickling, T. Glaucoma Research Foundation. (2017, October 29). Do Lifestyle Choices Affect Glaucoma? Accessed on October 4, 2021, from Do Lifestyle Choices Affect Glaucoma? | Glaucoma Research Foundation
Prevent Blindness. Your Sight Digital Devices and Your Eyes Blue Light and Your Eyes. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://preventblindness.org/blue-light-and-your-eyes/
Roland, J. Heathline. (2020, April 9). 10 Ways to Improve Your Eyesight. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/health/how-to-improve-eyesight
Seltman, W. WebMD. (2020, June 15). Eye Exercises. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from Exercises for Your Eyes (webmd.com)
Seltman, W. WebMD. (2020, July 21). Ocular Hypertension. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/occular-hypertension
Seltman, W. WebMD. (2020, October 3). Seeing Blue: How Blue Light Can Affect Your Health. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/eye-health/blue-light-health
Sharma, K. Alderwood Optical Canyon Park Vision Clinic Eye Care Services. (2021, January 13). How Often Should You Get Your Eyes Checked? Accessed on October 13, 2021, from How Often Should You Get Your Eyes Checked? (alderwoodoptical.com)
Turvert, D. American Academy of Ophthalmology. (2020, January 16). The Sun, UV Light and Your Eyes. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/sun
Vimont, C. American Optometric Association. (2020, January 10). 36 Fabulous Foods to Boost Eye Health. Accessed on October 4, 2021, from https://www.aao.org/eye-health/tips-prevention/fabulous-foods-your-eyes