Protecting eyesight in older age can help seniors retain their independence and ability to drive, participate in social and volunteer opportunities and continue to make a valuable contribution to their communities. About 4 in 10 adults are at high risk for vision loss in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Still, many eye conditions are treatable or preventable.
According to a recent New York Times Live report, there are several lifestyle habits that can worsen eye strain but there are also small adjustments that can help prevent or repair changes in the eye. Spending too much time on our phones, or even reading close-up can cause the eyeball to lengthen, resulting over time in nearsightedness (myopia). To help reduce this strain, experts recommend taking a break from reading every 20 minutes to focus on something at a distance of 20 feet or more, for 20 seconds.
Spending time outdoors in natural sunlight is not only beneficial to maintain a healthy circadian rhythm and receiving a dose of vitamin D, but research also suggests that bright sunlight may boost dopamine production, helping to reduce eye lengthening and the development of myopia. But it’s critical not to stare at the sun which can cause irreversible damage to the retina or lead to eye cancer. Wearing sunglasses, glasses or contacts that block UV rays can protect the eyes outdoors.
A healthy diet, regular exercise and avoiding smoking are also essential to protect eye health. Smoking is associated with age-related eye diseases in older adults, including macular degeneration and cataracts. Chemicals in cigarettes can travel through the bloodstream and damage sensitive eye tissues. A healthy diet that includes fresh vegetables like carrots, which contain antioxidants and vitamins C and E, have been found to help slow the progression of macular degeneration.
If you are experiencing any vision troubles, see an optometrist or ophthalmologist immediately to receive treatment quickly to help treat or prevent eye conditions that can lead to declining eyesight.