The Best Ways to Protect Your Eye Health

You’ve heard the saying that your eyes are the windows to the soul. They are also the windows to your health.  July is Healthy Vision Month, and we implore you to schedule your annual eye exam today and learn about eye health tips. Here’s why: An estimated 93 million adults in the United States are at high risk for serious vision loss, but only half visited an eye doctor in the past 12 months.1

Vision impairment is one of the most feared disabilities, but according to the National Eye Institute, at least half of all cases of blindness can be prevented.2 
You can protect your eyes by simply wearing sunglasses, giving your eyes a break every 20 minutes while working at the computer, and including specific nutrients in your health regimen. Read this important newsletter to find out other easy ways to protect your eyes from cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and dry eye. Let your eyes be the windows to your soul . . . and to the world for the rest of your life.

How Does Sunlight Affect Your Eyes?

It’s always important to protect our precious eyes from UV light no matter what time of day, weather or time of year. It is especially important during the summer when we spend more time outdoors and the sun is strongest. As we get older, our eye sight begins to change. We may even develop cataracts or macular degeneration. Some of the damage can be prevented by wearing sunglasses with UV and UVB protection.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • Time of Day – UV radiation is highest between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm. Here’s a good rule of thumb: if your shadow is shorter than you, UV radiation is at a higher intensity.  If your shadow is longer, UV radiation is at a lower intensity.
  • Weather – Don’t be fooled on a cloudy day. It may not be hot outdoors, but the sun’s rays can still burn through haze and clouds.
  • Length of time outdoors – Be practical. It’s may be obvious, but you need to be aware of the fact that the more time you spend in the sun, the more ultraviolet light you receive.  Which means you need to protect yourself!
  • Attire – Summer clothes expose the skin to more UV rays. Likewise, not wearing sunglasses or a hat exposes the eyes to more harmful rays.
  • Thinning Ozone Layer – Thanks to the depletion of the fragile and protective ozone layer, more radiation reaches the earth, which inevitably increases our risk of damage from the sun.

The Nutrients Your Eyes Are Begging For

The carotenoid family, a group of naturally occurring, fat-soluble pigments found in plants, play a key role in the health of our eyes. Carotenoids are the red, orange, and yellow plant pigments that give fruits and vegetables their vivid colors. All fruits and vegetables contain varying concentrations of carotenoids. But their colors are often covered up by green chlorophyll contained in the plant. Carotenoids are found in brightly colored vegetables, so the advice is to “eat the rainbow.”

These carotenoids are especially important to eye health

1. Beta carotene (the precursor to vitamin A)Remember when your mom told you to eat carrots because they’re good for your eyes? Well, she was right. Carrots contain beta carotene, which nourishes the eye’s rod and cone photoreceptors. It is related to retina and macular functioning because it provides day, night, and sharp central vision. It may also act as a light filter for the eyes, protecting against photooxidation of the lens. The National Eye Institute Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that supplementation with 400 IU of vitamin E, 500 mg vitamin C, 15 mg beta-carotene and 80 mg zinc oxide slows the progression of macular degeneration by about 25 percent.3 Beta carotene is found in carrots, sweet potatoes, winter squash, spinach, kale, cantaloupe and apricots.

Eye Health Tips

2. Lutein is an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. It is found in spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce, leeks, peas, egg yolks, tomatoes, carrots, marigold flowers, and fruits. It accumulates in the macula, the prominent, bright yellow spot in the center of the retina that allows you to clearly distinguish fine detail. Lutein in combination with vitamin A (or a beta carotene supplement) support healthy vision.4

3. Lycopene is a carotenoid found in tomatoes. Studies have shown that people with a low dietary intake of lycopene have twice the risk of macular degeneration.5 Lycopene and other carotenoids may also play an important role in supporting eye health.  Besides tomatoes, you can find lycopene in guavas, watermelon, grapefruit, papaya, red Bell peppers, red cabbage, asparagus, and mangos.

Two Other Important Nutrients

4. Grape seed extract, a natural substance found in grape seeds, contains proanthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that is very effective at protecting the body from the damaging effects of free radicals. Grape seed extract has been found to support eye health. Proanthocyanins have also improved visual performance in the dark and after exposure to glare in healthy people.7

5. Omega-3 Fatty Acids -You’ve heard that Omega 3s support your heart and brain. EPA and DHA, two omega fatty acids are also important to eye health. A National Eye Institute study, that used data from the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS), found that the participants who reported the highest level of omega-3 fatty acids in their diet were 30% less likelythan their peers to develop macular degeneration over a 12-year period.8 A study of 32,000 women found that those who consumed the most omega-3s from fish has a 17% lower risk of dry eye when compared with women who ate little or no seafood. And a study in the International Journal of Ophthalmology concluded omega-3 fatty acids “have a definite role for dry eye syndrome.” 9

10 Easy Ways To Protect Your Eyes

1. Get a yearly eye exam that includes dilation so your doctor can get a good look at your retina and optic nerve.
2. Wear a hat and sunglasses with complete ultraviolet protection.
3. Wash your hands regularly and avoid rubbing your eyes to keep out allergens, bacteria and viruses.
4. Get plenty of sleep. Tired eyes do not serve us well throughout the day. If they are tired, we are more likely to rub them, making them more vulnerable to irritants and infections.
5. Give your eyes a break. Looking at a computer screen all day can strain your eyes. Take a break every 20 minutes by looking at something else about 20 feet away for 20 seconds. Remember the 20x20x20 rule.
6. Use lubricating eye drops if necessary. (Speak with your doctor about this.)
7. Eat the rainbow. Brightly colored fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and antioxidants, including lutein, that support eye health.
8. Include fatty fish (tuna, salmon, herring, mackerel), nuts and olive oil in your diet. They are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.
9. Stay physically active. It helps lower your risk of diabetes high blood pressure, and high cholesterol which can all effect eye health.
10. Quit smoking! It increases your risk of eye disease such as macular degeneration and cataracts, and can harm the optic nerve.