Your vision is priceless. When it comes to eye health, sometimes our concerns start with visual acuity problems and end with contacts or glasses. It can be easy to forget that the eyes are related to the health of the whole body. In fact, the eyes, which are only two percent of your body weight, burn 20 percent of your daily energy. This is a massive amount of energy. Your visual system is the single largest energy user in your body. This means that the health of your eyes and the health of your body as a whole are intimately linked.
Here are some lifestyle factors that can impact your eye health:
• Eye protection
• Screen time
• Regular eye exams
Let’s look at some of the details of each one:
Diet – Carrots are not the only vegetable to benefit your eyes. Although they are good sources of carotene. Consider other vegetables as well; especially dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. In addition, the omega-3 fats found in fish and other seafood are important for retinal health. Deficiency of these fatty acids may increase your risk of certain eye diseases.
Eye protection – Protective eyewear includes safety glasses, goggles, and splash shields. The type of protective eyewear needed depends on the activity. Wear protective eyewear for sports, work, handling chemicals or any activity that puts your eyes at risk. If possible look for polycarbonate glasses which are very strong and shatter-resistant.
Smoking – It is no surprise that smoking is bad for your health, but this is especially true for eye health. All the energy that your eyes use creates a lot of inflammatory by-products. The eyes must deal with these by-products and smoking makes the problem even worse. This is why smoking is related to the development of age-related macular degeneration, cataract, and optic nerve damage.
Screen time – Modern computer screens, TVs, phones, and tablets all flicker and are saturated with blue light. As mentioned, the eyes burn enormous amounts of energy and need to deal with the inflammatory by-products. Because of its wavelength, blue light is high-energy radiation which stresses the eyes by fatiguing the eye’s waste disposal systems. The flickering of computer screens is too fast for us to notice, but it is a source of eye fatigue. When using a screen take breaks every 20 minutes. In addition to resting the eyes use these breaks to look off into the distance. If your device features allow, change the setting to lower the amount of blue light and increase the amount of red light coming from the screen. Examples of these features include night mode on Android devices and night shift on Apple devices.
Regular eye exams – Often eye exams are not a top-priority for children and young and middle-aged adults. However, a dilated eye exam can be important for to assess your eye health and screen for progressive diseases. These exams are recommended annually for any individual over 60 and for African Americans over 40. Regardless of your age, if you feel an eye exam is right for you contact your eye care professional.
Campello, L., Esteve-Rudd, J., Bru-Martínez, R., Herrero, M. T., Fernández-Villalba, E., Cuenca, N., & Martín-Nieto, J. (2013). Alterations in Energy Metabolism, Neuroprotection and Visual Signal Transduction in the Retina of Parkinsonian, MPTP-Treated Monkeys. PLoS ONE, 8(9), e74439. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0074439