March is known for St. Patrick’s Day.  And while I enjoy a couple of cold green brewskies like everybody else, there are a couple of other reasons that March is significant.  March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, as well as Save Your Vision Month.  Two very different issues that can have a lot of overlap. This post will be about Save Your Vision Month and another post later in the month will discuss National Brain Injury Awareness Month.

In honor of this month, I have compiled a list of several ways to help you support healthy eyesight and save your vision from common problems. Of course, annual vision testing should be at the top of your to-do list, but here are some more things you can do to keep your eyes healthy and your eyesight strong.

Feed Your Eyes
As a nation, we are constantly reminded that better nutrition is vital to our health.  This holds true for your vision as well. There are three nutrients that almost all vision research seems to agree on: omega-3 fatty acid, lutein and zeaxanthin.

Omega-3 can help protect your eyes from problems like cataracts, age-related macular degeneration, and glaucoma, but it is also essential for good cardiovascular health.  Good sources of omega-3 include nuts, seeds, avocadoes, tofu, brussel sprouts and fish.

Lutein and zeaxanthin play an especially important role in eye function: Both carotenoids form the pigment of the macula (“yellow spot”) in the center of the retina. The macula is responsible for sharp vision. Just like “internal sunglasses,” both micronutrients filter out damaging blue light from the sun and UV light. This leads to improved contrast sensitivity and reduced susceptibility to glare, according to scientists. Moreover, both substances keep the retina healthy due to their anti-oxidative, or cytoprotective, and anti-inflammatory effects.  Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in dark leafy greens, peas, broccoli, asparagus, carrots, pumpkin and brussel sprouts.

Practice Safe Computer / Tablet Use
Our society has become so computer-oriented that we have excluded most other forms of information gathering.  Much of our work and play now consists of using a computer. While they may make our jobs and play more fun, they can also cause severe damage to our eyes.

Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) is a common and growing problem. Symptoms of CVS include tired or sore eyes, dry and red eyes, headaches, blurring of vision, or slowness in changing the focus of your eyes. Left untreated, CVS can cause permanent vision damage.

The good news is there is one simple step that can help to combat CVS and save your vision. When working on a computer for over 10 minutes, take a vision break and look away from the screen for at least 10 seconds, focus on something that is at least 10 feet away from you. This is the 10-10-10 rule.

Wear Sunglasses
Sunglasses are not just an accessory for your outfit.  They serve a very important role in protecting your eye health. Sunglasses protect our eyes by limiting the amount of light that reaches them.  They block most of the ultraviolet rays of sunlight. Ultraviolet rays can lead to macular degeneration, cataracts, and skin cancer of the eyelids.

Forget about a fashion statement and get sunglasses that protect from UVA and UVB light. Not all sunglasses are created equal. Sunglasses without special coatings that protect from UV light may actually cause more harm to your eyes because you’ll think you’re protected from the sun, so you’ll be less careful.

And don’t put the sunglasses away in the winter!  Many people only think of wearing sunglasses in the warm summer months, but winter snow reflects the sunlight back up at you. This means that you are exposed twice to the sunlight. Keep the sunglasses handy year-round and protect your eyesight so that you can continue to enjoy the views.

Stop Smoking
Smoking is as dangerous to your eyes as it is to the rest of your body. Smoking has been found to be a risk factor in the following eye conditions:

  • Glaucoma: Smoking causes shrinkage or constriction of blood vessels, which is directly linked to rising inner eye pressure that can lead to glaucoma and accompanying optic nerve damage.
  • Diabetic retinopathy: While smoking may not directly cause diabetic retinopathy, most experts agree that quitting smoking helps stop the progression of the disease.
  • Cataracts: There is conclusive evidence that smoking causes nuclear cataracts. According to the CDC, you are two to three times more likely to develop cataracts if you smoke.
  • Graves’ ophthalmopathy: This condition, often associated with thyroid disease, disrupts muscle control of the eye; smoking has been shown to increase the risk of developing thyroid disease.
  • Age-related macular degeneration: The CDC also claims that smoking doubles your chances of developing AMD.
Drink Up
Staying hydrated is important for the health of your eyes. Dehydration reduces the lubrication of your eyes, which can make eye-strain and dry-eye even more uncomfortable. Dehydration can even cause blurred vision and headaches. Just like proper diet and exercise is important for your overall health, hydration is another way to keep those headaches at bay, so be sure you are getting enough water.

Green Tea is known for it’s various health benefits, but did you know it contains nutrients for healthy eyes? Green tea has Vitamins A and C, lutein and zeaxanthin which are known as ” the eye vitamins” because they have been found offer protection of the development and progression of AMD.

Work It Out
Just like exercise reduces your blood pressure, it also reduces your eye pressure which is beneficial for reducing your risk of glaucoma. Running or walking can reduce the risk of age-related cataracts. Exercising 3-4 times a week can also reduce your risk of AMD (age related macular degeneration). Since many eye diseases are related to high-blood pressure and diabetes, a well-rounded week with physical activities and a healthy diet can help alleviate progression of the diseases.

Get Poked
Acupuncture is a great way to support healthy vision.  And just because I get asked this all the time, no. Needles are NOT placed in the eyes.  In all seriousness though, regular acupuncture treatments have been shown to improve blood flow, decrease oxidative stress, lower blood pressure and improve sleep.  All of these things can contribute to deteriorating eye sight over time.

So what steps will you take this March to help save your vision?

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