For many of us, tradition dictates starting the new year with resolutions for better health. Often, we promise ourselves we'll get more exercise, eat a healthier diet, or quit smoking. And that's all great—especially since the benefits of those resolutions have a ripple effect you may not expect: They all benefit our eyes.
So why not multiply the benefits by adding a few more resolutions for a complete package to protect your vision?
According to John A. Moran Eye Center ophthalmologist Marissa Larochelle, MD, "Our eyes are no exception to the fact that as each year passes, our vital organs lose some functionality and grow weaker. We become more susceptible to conditions, including cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma."
Tips for Healthy Eyes
Larochelle suggests these seven resolutions for better eye health:
- Schedule your annual eye exam. In addition to making sure your eyeglass or contact lens prescription is right for you (or if you need one), a yearly eye exam also offers your ophthalmologist an opportunity to detect the early stages of eye diseases. For example, diseases such as glaucoma are usually painless and can progress to critical stages before you even notice. Early intervention can make a big difference in many conditions.
- Wear UV protective sunglasses year-round. UV damage from the sun accumulates over time. It can cause you to get cataracts at an early age and increase the risk of rare eye cancers. Sunglasses also help protect your eyes by blocking irritation and dryness caused by wind or blinding snow.
- Eat more eye-healthy foods. From Omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish such as salmon and tuna to fresh fruits and dark green vegetables, what you eat directly affects your vision.
- Take your contacts out and give your eyes a break. Contact lenses are a great alternative to glasses, but they can sometimes be hard on your eyes if you leave them in for too long. Although today's lenses are thinner, safer, and more comfortable than ever, extended-wear may cause dry eyes and infections.
- Look away from the digital screen. When you're focusing on a screen, it's hard to remember to blink. As a result, your eyes may dry out and the muscles in your eyes can become exhausted from focusing. This causes eye strain. Your best bet is to follow the 20/20/20 rule: Every 20 minutes, look at something about 20 feet from your screen for 20 seconds.
- Monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose levels. Your heart health directly affects the blood vessels in your eyes. High blood pressure and high cholesterol levels increase the risk of eye disease, including diabetic retinopathy. Take prescribed medications on time and follow precautionary measures to control these levels.
- Quit smoking. Did you know smoking puts you at more risk for developing eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration and cataracts? It contributes to plaque building up in your bloodstream, weakening arteries, and increasing the risk of a heart attack. It can also damage your retina and cause vision loss.
"On top of practicing preventive care, it's also important to monitor any changes in your vision, especially as you get older," Larochelle says. "If you experience loss of night vision, blurriness, double vision, or eye pain, don't delay. Resolve to see your ophthalmologist!"