Five easy ways to look after your eyes

It’s not just about eating carrots – there’s plenty you can do to keep your eyes in tip-top condition

We’ve all been told not to stare at the sun to help protect our eyes, but even when there’s no sunshine, you can make sure you look after your eyesight.

From upping your fruit and veg intake to taking screen breaks – put that phone down! – find five simple steps to achieving healthy peepers below.

1. Wear sunglasses

Sun protection doesn’t just apply to the SPF you put on your skin – your eyes need protecting, too. Make sure your sunglasses have the CE mark, or British Standard BS EN ISO 12312-1.1 This means they offer a high level of UV protection. Your sunglasses might also carry the BS 2724 mark. This means they have a ‘shade number’, which refers to the amount of UV light they let through. The higher the shade number, the more protection they offer.2

2. Take screen breaks

There’s no evidence that staring at a computer all day can cause eye problems, but they can get tired after looking at a screen for hours.3 This is why it’s important to take regular screen breaks. Stick to the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look 20 feet (6m) away for 20 seconds. This gives your eyes a rest and increases the ‘blink rate’ – when you focus on a screen, your blinking slows down, leading to dry and uncomfortable eyes.4

3. Eat lots of fruit and veggies

A healthy diet is important for everyone, but there are some foods that can help protect your eye health. Experts from Harvard Medical School say the antioxidants vitamins A, C, E and mineral zinc may help delay the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).5 AMD affects the macula, a part of the retina at the back of the eye. It’s a leading cause of vision loss and the number of Brits with AMD is expected to rise to 700,000 by 2020.6 The macula is very sensitive to oxidative stress, so antioxidant nutrients may help protect the retina and your eyesight.7 Lutein and zeaxanthin – carotenoids found in veg such as orange peppers, spinach, corn and kale – can also protect eye health. Several major US studies have found that those with low lutein and zeaxanthin levels who up their intake are less likely to develop AMD, and also reduce their risk of AMD progression by 25%.8,9

4. Stop smoking

Smokers double their risk of developing AMD, and are more likely to get it earlier than non-smokers too.10 It’s thought that toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke – there are over 4,500 – accelerate the ageing process in the eye, while smoking also causes blood vessels to narrow, reducing the supply of fresh oxygen and nutrients to the eye.11 So stub out your habit today.

Handpicked content: Here’s how you can quit smoking and start to feel the benefits

5. Have regular eye tests

Even if you don’t wear glasses or contact lenses, you should get your eyes tested every two years – especially once you hit 40. An optometrist can spot various conditions, such as glaucoma, that don’t cause any painful symptoms but could lead to sight-loss if they’re not treated in time.12

Don’t wait to see an optometrist if you notice any changes in your vision, such as trouble reading or difficulties seeing long distance.

Handpicked content: How to look after your eyes naturally

Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
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Sources
  1. . Association of British Dispensing Opticians. Sunglasses infographic. Available from: https://www.abdo.org.uk/information-for-the-public/eyecare-faq/sunglasses/sunglasses-infographic/
  2. . Eyecare Trust. Buying Sunglasses. Available from: http://www.eyecaretrust.org.uk/view.php?item_id=373
  3. . College of Optometrists. Eye care – screen use. Available from: https://lookafteryoureyes.org/eye-care/screen-use/
  4. . As above
  5. . Harvard Medical School. Top foods to help protect your vision. Available from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/top-foods-to-help-protect-your-vision
  6. . NHS Choices. Sight problems predicted to rise in UK. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/news/older-people/sight-problems-predicted-to-rise-in-uk/
  7. . As Source 5
  8. . Seddon JM, et al. Dietary carotenoids, vitamins A, C, and E, and advanced age-related macular degeneration. Eye Disease Case-Control Study Group. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7933422
  9. . National Eye Institute. NIH study provides clarity on supplements for protection against blinding eye disease. Available from: https://nei.nih.gov/news/pressreleases/050513
  10. . RNIB. Smoking and sight loss. Available from: http://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health/looking-after-your-eyes/smoking-and-sight-loss
  11. . Macular Society. Smoking. Available from: https://www.macularsociety.org/smoking
  12. . RNIB. Eye examinations. Available from: https://www.rnib.org.uk/eye-health/looking-after-your-eyes/eye-examinations

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