Healthy sight habits

From choosing the right sunglasses to eating right, there’s more to healthy eyes than regular tests

If you have 20/20 vision (score!) or wear glasses or contacts regularly to correct your vision, you might assume you’re doing everything right to protect your eyesight. But developing a few additional healthy habits now may pay off for your vision down the road. As you get older, your risk of developing some of the most common causes of blindness, including cataracts, glaucoma and age-related macular degeneration, goes up. Luckily, there are steps you can take to reduce your risk and protect your vision long-term.

Wear sunglasses

Ultraviolet (UV) rays are a catalyst for serious eye conditions including cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer – so sunglasses are important for your eye health, as well as preventing wrinkles. Buy from a reputable retailer to be sure sunglasses give 100 per cent UV protection. Vintage sunglasses or cheap holiday or market buys may not be UV-inhibiting and this can be worse for eyes than not wearing them, as your pupils will dilate in the darkness and let more UV rays in. If you have a favourite pair you’re not sure about, an optician may be able to check their UV protection levels and reglaze if necessary. Wear whenever the sun is bright and definitely if it’s a day when you need sun protection on your skin.

Start them young

Remember, if you feel the need for shades, your children need them, too. Cataracts, macular degeneration and cancer may seem like age-related conditions but, as with skin cancers, the damage is cumulative and, the more protection you get from a young age, the better.

Have regular eye tests

From the age of two upwards, all of us need to have our eyes tested every two years unless otherwise advised – even if you have 20/20 vision. An eye test can identify pressure changes at an early stage so the condition can be monitored and, if necessary, halted with eye drops.

Eat a rainbow

We need a good supply of antioxidants for eye health, and fruit and vegetables are the best source. Get your fill of dark green, leafy veggies, and go for as many bright, colourful pigments as possible. If you have a family history of macular degeneration, it’s important to take a daily supplement that contains the antioxidant carotenoid lutein. Omega-3 essential fatty acids are also important for tear structure.

Don’t ignore dryness

One in nine women over 50 has dry eye syndrome, with the biggest cause being digital eye strain, closely followed by not wearing the right prescription. A normal blink rate is 18 times per minute. When you look at a screen, which reduces to just four times. Deprived of the tear film they need, eyes dry out, feel gritty and fatigued. This can affect your vision, general wellbeing and stamina for working. See your optometrist about dry eyes so they can rule out more serious, underlying eye health concerns. They can also prescribe the right treatments, which may include drops, creams or gels.

Use the right drops

Avoid eye drops that contain preservatives as they’re a common allergen that can interfere with tear production and make dry eye worse. Look for hyaluronic acid, a natural and effective ingredient, or ask your optometrist for recommendations. Never use drops beyond the expiry date. Don’t wait for discomfort – if you’re prone to sore eyes, start in the morning and keep yourself topped up all day.

Do your desk exercises

The idea you can exercise the eye muscles by performing certain movements is rubbish. What you can do is give them a rest. Get into the habit of having 20/20/20 screen breaks. Every 20 minutes, look at a point about 20ft away, then blink 20 times.