Healthcare professionals across America have deemed July Healthy Vision Month. Though most of us rely on our vision at every waking moment, it can be easy to take for granted your healthy eyesight until it’s gone. Each year due to environmental and technological changes in our world, it becomes more and more important to educate yourself on the impact that sunlight and technology can have on your eyes. Through different practices, diets, and lifestyle choices, you can pursue a life that prioritizes your eyesight and vision health. Here are some tips and tricks to be mindful of this Healthy Vision Month.
Keep an Eye-Healthy Diet in Mind
A healthy diet has a positive impact on nearly all facets of your physical and mental health. While nutritious eating is always a good thing, there are food groups and nutrients that can specifically assist in preserving eye health for a longer time. Seek out a diet that’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zinc, and vitamins C and E. These nutrients are essential to the basic, foundational makeup of your retinas and eye structure. By making them readily available in your body, you can fight against macular degeneration, cataracts, and eyesight issues that usually occur with age. Some examples of foods and food groups that have these attributes include:
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Oily fish, specifically salmon and tuna
- Vegetarian protein sources including eggs, nuts, and beans
- Citrus fruits
- Meats such as oyster and pork
Research and studies have shown eyesight to decline at much slower rates and in rare cases even improve through the influx of vitamins and nutrients found in these food groups. For instance, adults 50 and over who ate just one orange a day were found to have a 58% lower risk of developing macular degeneration in the next two decades. This is due to flavonoids and vitamin C in oranges, which directly assist the collagen proteins vital to a strong eye structure.
Carotenoids are compounds holding lutein, zeaxanthin, and nutrients that help to strengthen the foundations of your retina. By eating collard greens, kale, or spinach, you can help enrich your eye-to-brain signals which produce vision, counteracting the negative effects that UV or blue light have on your eyes. Dr. Rudrani Banik, M.D., from New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai in New York City explained, “these compounds protect against free radical damage and neutralize harmful UV light from the sun and blue light from electronic devices.”
There is no better time than now to take an extra minute and find some delicious and nutritious ways to incorporate these foods into your diet. With some simple googling, you can find a multitude of recipes from places like EatingWell, Food52, and BreadExperience that are not only mindful of your vision, but perfect summer dishes as well!
Protect Your Eyes from the Elements
Not only is July Healthy Vision month, it is also UV Safety month. With environmental change occurring every year, it is important to not just put on sunscreen but to protect your eyes as well. Wearing sunglasses for long stretches of outdoor activities can be an invaluable way to preserve eye health. Research the sunglasses that you plan to buy. The best pair for optimal protection should block roughly 99% of UVA and UVB rays.
It is also important to consider lens size and coverage when purchasing eye protection. For instance, many people overlook periphery coverage in eyewear. This has resulted in higher rates of noticeably worse peripheral vision with age. Consider investing in a pair of wraparound lenses with proper sun blockage coverage. More expensive glasses are often more durable and can be an invaluable investment for your health.
Any time you’re outside, keep your eyes in mind. This is especially important if you’re dealing with the elements. While summertime is the perfect opportunity to take a trip to the beach or go for a fun hike, don’t forget to protect your eyes from saltwater, chlorine, or potential debris from rocky areas! By making use of goggles or other protective eyewear specific to the situation, you’ll be able to keep your eyes safe and ready for more fun adventures to come.
Take a Break from Your Screens
Along with UV rays, blue light from phones and computers are equally common and can damage our eyes when we spend hours each day looking at screens. Overexposure to blue light can harm not just your eyesight, but your physical and mental health as well.
Some common symptoms that can manifest from too much phone or computer time include:
- Eye strain
- Blurry vision
- Dry eyes
- Difficulty focusing
- Neck pain
- Shoulder pain
- Poor posture
Taking some time to disconnect from technology and devices can reduce these symptoms. However, for many Americans, high contact with screens is a result of the increasingly virtual environments of education and the workforce, making a reprieve from blue light harder to achieve. Online health advisors, like Web MD, have documented easy practices that people can adopt to have proper screen breaks during their workday.
Be sure to engage with screens while wearing your glasses and contacts for improved vision. When working at a computer, try to position yourself level with the top edge, or monitor. Looking down at a screen versus up can help to reduce eye strain. Be sure to also look away from the screen for a half minute or so every 20 minutes. These short breaks can have long-term positive impacts on your eyes. Additionally, by sitting in a comfortable chair with your back straight and feet on the ground, your improved posture can help with eye position and body pains that long periods of screen time often cause.
At any desk or screen space you regularly utilize, take an extra moment to fine-tune it into a space that will be comfortable for you. Whether you work from home or in an office, the more comfortable you feel in your position, the safer and more productive you’ll be able to be. Take some time to research the computer or monitor you work on. Does it have any blue light filters or other attributes that will give your eyes less strain? Is your chair comfortable and properly supporting your body? If not, what’s missing? Are there ways you can adjust your space to make it a better fit for you?
Lastly, consider investing in some glasses with blue light lenses to wear when using your phone or watching TV. When wearing these glasses, your eyes have better protection against screen light. A plus is that now more than ever, companies are investing in chic eyewear shapes and styles, so you can be sure to find a look that fits your personal tastes.
Clean Your Eye Shadow Brush
Make-up can be a fun way to dress up and give yourself a unique style. In the last five years, eye makeup has accounted for nearly a quarter share of the cosmetics industry. Whether it be eyeliner, mascara, eye shadow, or glitter, take some time to consider not just style, but health as well. Are there any online reviews or comments that can give you an idea of the product's eye safety? For instance most powders, when applied correctly, cause little to no harm but glitter or other plastic based objects could potentially have sharp edges that can irritate your eyes.
Along with this, be mindful of cleanliness and expiration dates. Many make-up stores sell additional products that specifically clean make-up brushes and disinfect products. Use these regularly! You want anything you are putting on your face and eyes to be as free of bacteria and as fresh and clean as possible. Expiration dates are relevant for all make up products, but especially your eyes. Expired eye make-up has been known to give users infections, such as pink eye or follicular conjunctivitis. Keep these expiration dates in mind when buying make-up and consider investing in smaller products that will only last for a few months to help keep your waste low.
Lastly, as with anything that involves your eyes, use some common sense. Don’t apply eye make-up in a moving vehicle, and always be sure to clean your face and eyes from any product before you go to sleep. Also, don’t share any eye products even with your close friends and family members. While other make-up products are good for sharing, anything on your eyes you should keep to yourself.
Clean Your High Contact Spaces
Give your eyes a nice, clean, healthy life. Use your common sense: wash your hands regularly, especially after engaging in any high-contact activities or before and after meals. Take stock of the spaces in your life you regularly occupy and objects that you have high contact with and take time each week to wipe them down and keep them clean. Whether this is your phone or phone case, or computer keyboard, investigate some ways that you can clean the bacteria and germs they’ll naturally accumulate. Be sure to wash your sheets and pillowcase regularly as well.
Disinfect and clean any eye-related products. If you use a pair of glasses, be mindful of wiping down your lenses and frames with appropriate materials. For contact lens users, educate yourself on the best practices for the type of contacts you own. It is incredibly important to stick to whatever length of time the contact title references. If they are dailies, be sure to only use them once. If you have weeklies or monthlies, clean them thoroughly after washing your hands and always use new solution. When not in use, your contact lenses should be in their case for optimal safety.
Schedule a Checkup with your Eye Doctor
Nearly 80% of American adults rate vision as the most vital of the five senses. Despite this, less than 40% of American adults reported scheduling a recommended annual eye appointment in 2018. These numbers have decreased in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, discouraging people from going to healthcare appointments they don’t deem “necessary.” For most people, vision is something they rely on heavily each day. No matter where your vision stands, it’s never too late to preserve and protect your eye health to prevent future decline. One of the best ways to gauge where your eyesight truly stands and learn more tailored ways to protect it is through an eye doctor.