The health of your eyes and vision is directly related to physical health and well-being. The better you take care of your body, the less likely you are to experience some of the most common age-related causes of vision loss, such as diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, glaucoma, or macular degeneration.
5 Healthy Lifestyle Choices To Protect Your Vision
Here at Atlantic Eye Institute, we take a whole-body approach to vision health. Your eyes don’t exist on their own. They are two important parts of a collective body. When the body is ailing, so are the eyes. Your eyes and vision are particularly susceptible to:
- Poor diet (by this, we mean not eating enough of the foods you should and consuming too many of the foods you shouldn’t).
- Heart disease and high blood pressure.
- Not enough exercise (necessary for weight management and blood sugar balance).
- Lack of sleep can lead to eye strain.
- Chronic stress (which elevates blood pressure and can affect blood sugar levels).
- Too much sun/glare
With those bullet points in mind, it won’t surprise you to know our lifestyle tips for healthy vision are centered around those five key areas.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
You truly are what you eat. We hear this repeatedly over a lifetime. Yet still, so many people survive on a diet largely compromised of junk food. Your eyes may be able to stay healthy through the younger years, but a history of a poor diet will eventually catch up to you. Making healthy food choices is a must!
A poor diet is linked to heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and being overweight/obese, which put you at higher risk for vision loss later on. Similarly, failure to get a wide range of vitamins and minerals from your diet elevates your risk of macular degeneration and glaucoma.
We recommend making sure your diet is full of lean proteins, lots of colorful fruits and vegetables, and focuses on whole-grain carbs. Try to adhere to an 80/20 philosophy – with only 20% or less of your diet coming from unhealthy or processed foods. If you’re truly committed, we recommend focusing on an anti-inflammatory meal plan, which has multiple benefits to your health and well-being. We also recommend speaking to your optometrist about supplements known to support eye and vision health, such as B vitamins, vitamins C, D, and E, as well as zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin.
Exercise a little bit every day
We understand that the gym isn’t for everyone. However, regular exercise is essential for overall physical health and weight management, which minimizes the risk of type 2 diabetes and heart conditions. If you aren’t going to make exercise a calendared part of your day, try to work it in otherwise:
- Park in the furthest spot and fast-walk to your destination
- Walk your dog(s) more often
- Make a bucket list of local hiking, biking, or walking areas and start visiting them each week on your own or with company
- Take a walk, jog, or bike ride instead of sitting in your car waiting for kids to finish extra-curricular activities
- Always take the stairs
- Put on your favorite dance music and have a dance party
- Take a dance class
- Go to the roller rink with your kids or grandkids (you can use the “skate mates” to keep steady until you’ve reclaimed your skating skills
Our bonus idea: Do your own yard work and house cleaning. According to healthline.com, thorough housecleaning can burn more than 300 calories per hour!
Make high-quality sleep a priority
Most children and adults in the U.S. don’t get the high-quality sleep their bodies (and eyes) need. This is due to a range of factors, including too much ambient lighting in bedrooms, staying up too late, not getting enough exercise during the day, or consuming foods/drinks that are stimulants too close to bedtime.
When you’re continually fatigued, you’re more likely to suffer from dry eyes. Also, people tend to rub their tired eyes, which leads to scratching of the outer eye membranes and the cornea. Tired eyes are also more susceptible to eye strain, spasms, and infection.
Improve your sleep habits by:
- Getting at least seven to nine hours of sleep each night (children need more).
- Creating a soothing and relaxing bedtime routine.
- Staying screen-free for 30 minutes before bedtime.
- Minimizing any ambient lighting in the bedroom (using red light bulbs for nightlights).
- Do not consume caffeinated or sugary beverages less than four hours before sleep time.
- Going to bed and getting up at the same time each day.
- Getting sufficient physical activity each day to help your body “feel” tired (see #2)
Healthy lifestyle choices to help manage stress levels
Stress is a precursor and “red flag” for many physical conditions that lead to poor eye health and vision loss, like diabetes and heart disease. Stress also makes you more prone to overeating, which leads to weight issues that further put you at risk for type 2 diabetes and heart issues. It can become a vicious cycle.
In addition to healthy lifestyle choices like eating and exercise, stress management often includes:
- Using mindfulness apps that prioritize relaxation and stress management.
- Finding someone to confide in, be it a friend, therapist, spiritual guide, etc.
- Keeping a gratitude journal and noting at least three things in it each day.
- Minimizing stimulant intake (caffeine, nicotine, energy drinks, etc.).
- Seek joy and laughter.
Keep up with annual wellness appointments
Too many patients wait until there’s a problem before scheduling appointments with the optometrist and other healthcare providers. Your eye health fares best when you maintain annual eye exams. There, we frequently catch the small red flags and correct them before they cause problems that have more serious or long-term consequences.
Are You Due For An Annual Eye Exam?
Are your eyes due for a little TLC? Don’t let them down. Contact Atlantic Eye Institute to schedule an appointment for yourself and your family. We’re happy to review your current medical records and general health history to create a personalized lifestyle plan that optimizes future eye and vision health.