How to Improve Eyesight
Aging affects eyesight, and most people require glasses or contact lenses by the time they reach their senior years. However, there are steps you can take to preserve your vision so that you can stay independent and continue taking part in all the activities that you enjoy. Read on to find out how to improve eyesight and avoid eye disease.
Top Tips for Maintaining and Improving Your Vision
1. Eat Healthy Foods
Current research shows that aging can be counteracted by providing your body, including your eyes, with the nutrients it needs to stay healthy. In contrast, inflammatory foods, such as processed foods, starches and refined sugars increase oxidative stress, which can also damage the eyes.
Certain nutrients have been identified as particularly important for eye health, especially for preventing and even slowing down age-related macular degeneration (AMD). These are the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory vitamins A, C and E, and also lutein, zeaxanthin, zinc oxide and copper oxide. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables, especially leafy greens, should provide you with the needed supply of these nutrients.
A healthy diet will also contribute to preventing obesity, which is linked to an increased risk of glaucoma and AMD. Furthermore, excess weight also increases the risk of chronic conditions, like hypertension and diabetes, which can cause loss of vision.
2. Exercise Regularly
As new findings become available almost weekly, the value of exercise to prevent aging has become undeniable. Exercise increases blood flow throughout the body, and this improves transport of oxygen and nutrients to where it is needed – including our eyes. Exercise also helps to prevent weight gain and chronic conditions.
Exercise need not be strenuous. The recommended amount is moderate activity for at least 150 minutes a week and this can include walking, gardening or similar movement.
3. Manage Chronic Conditions Effectively
Obesity, diabetes, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases are all linked to a higher incidence of eye problems. In fact, changes in the eyes are often the first sign of a chronic condition – with these conditions often initially identified during a regular eye examination.
High levels of blood sugar and hypertension are both linked to a more rapid development of cataracts. Diabetics are also at a heightened risk of developing diabetic retinopathy, which affects the blood vessels in the eye and causes cloudy vision.
So, to protect your vision, it is important to adopt the lifestyle habits that help to prevent, control and even improve chronic conditions, and also to take the medication that is prescribed to manage the disease.
4. Get Regular Eye Examinations
The degenerative eye problems that commonly cause poor vision in seniors can be detected during regular eye examinations. With early diagnosis, these conditions can either be treated or their progression can be slowed down before they cause severe limitation of vision.
Seniors should have full eye examinations every year, even if they do not require new eyeglasses.
5. Stop Smoking
Those who smoke, or smoked previously, have up to a four times greater risk of developing AMD. This increased risk may be attributed to cellular changes, oxidative stress and/or narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the eyes.
6. Avoid Overexposure to Sunlight
While the eye is designed to block out most ultraviolet light from the sun, overexposure can cause damage to both the lens and the retina. Excessive exposure to UV rays is linked to the development of both cataracts and AMD. Furthermore, those with fair skin and blue eyes are at greater risk of developing cataracts.
So, when you are out in the sun, protect your eyes by wearing a hat with a brim and sunglasses with a UV coating.
7. Avoid Excessive Blue Light
During the daytime we are naturally surrounded by blue light (HEV). It is essential for regulating our sleep/wake cycle and contributes to alertness and a positive mood.
HEV has short light waves, which the human eye does not block out effectively, with the result being that most of it reaches the retina. Too much HEV can damage the retina’s light sensitive cells (similar to AMD).
These days we are exposed to an unnatural amount of blue light from our smartphones, computer screens and other devices. If you spend a lot of time looking at screens, and especially if you work at night, you should protect your eyes against excessive HEV. Use blue light-blocking glasses or blue light screen filters. Most phones now also have settings, such as dark mode, which reduces the amount of blue light.
8. Protect Your Eyes Against Injury
Any traumatic injury to the body leads to scarring. Compared to most scarring on our skin and other soft tissue, which does not have any disabling effect, damage to eye tissue could affect vision permanently.
Therefore, it is important not to ignore protective eyewear when you engage in activities that call for it. This includes sports, like biking and skiing, and work or hobbies that involve chemicals and the possibility of flying sharp objects, like metal and woodwork.
Furthermore, if pain and irritation from chemicals or a foreign object in the eye does not resolve quickly after rinsing, it is essential to consult a medical practitioner as soon as possible.
9. Do Eye Exercises
While there is little scientific proof, many believe that there is value in eye exercises to strengthen eye muscles and neural connections. The following are two exercises you can try:
- Strengthen your eye muscles with eye rolls. Sit comfortably and look straight ahead. Then, circle your eyes clockwise 10 times, then counterclockwise 10 times. Avoid straining your eyes by looking too far up.
- Sharpen and expand distance vision with eye crossing before any activity involving long-distance vision, like driving. We spend a lot of time focusing on near objects and this could weaken the neural connections for distance vision. To complete this exercise, focus on an object about 20 feet away and cross your eyes, then uncross and focus on the object again. Repeat this four times.
10. Try Exposure to Deep Red Light
A recent study found that exposure to deep red light once a week can significantly improve color contrast vision in ageing populations. This improvement is gained from three minutes of exposure to red light at 670 wavelengths once a week, but it must be in the morning.
The deep red light, with its long wavelengths, as opposed to the short wavelengths of blue light, appears to stimulate the mitochondria in the cells. Mitochondria are the source of energy in all cells, and declining eyesight has been linked to a reduction of up to 70% in energy supply.
Red light therapy is also used for other types of healing and is available for purchase online.
Vision and Aging
Our eyes are among the most complex and hardworking organs in the body. In fact, the nerve cells responsible for vision use more energy than the cells in any other organ, so they require a good supply of oxygen.
How the Eye Sees
Light rays enter the eye through the pupil and pass through a lens, which focuses the light on the retina at the back of the eye. Small muscles attached to the lens allow it to contract, expand and focus for near and far vision.
The retina contains millions of nerve cells known as cones and rods. Cones are mostly in the macula in the center of the retina and are responsible for detailed and color vision. Rods are around the outside and pick up light and dark; they are important for depth, peripheral and night vision.
The rods and cones transform the light rays into electrical impulses, which are then transmitted via the optic nerve to the brain where the picture we see is interpreted.
For good vision, each of these pathways – the lens, the retina and the optic nerve – need to stay healthy.
Common Eye Problems in Seniors
- Difficulty reading. This is the most common eye problem and can generally be corrected with eye glasses. It is mostly caused by the natural process of weakening of the muscles, which expands and contracts the lens.
- Cataracts. This is a clouding of the lens as a result of clumping together of lens proteins. This degeneration at cellular level starts from around the age of 40 and is believed to be linked to oxidation. Cataracts can be treated surgically once they affect vision significantly.
- Age-related macular degeneration. This is the leading cause of loss of clear vision in the elderly and affects the cones in the macula of the retina. As a result, central, detailed vision deteriorates, and objects may appear fuzzy with blurry lines and colors. The exact cause of AMD is unknown, but it is linked to family history, chronic conditions and lifestyle factors. Current treatments can only help to slow progression.
- Glaucoma. Glaucoma is caused by build-up of pressure in the eyeball when too much fluid is produced, or the fluid is not drained properly. Continuous increased pressure can cause irreversible damage to the optic nerve. This condition can be effectively halted with simple treatment. However, because glaucoma usually develops gradually, loss of vision often goes unnoticed until it is already at an advanced stage.
Take Charge of Your Vision
It is clear that everyone can actively take steps to protect their eyes against external and internal factors that can cause loss of vision in old age.
It starts with a healthy lifestyle – particularly a healthy diet and exercise – that has been shown to slow the ageing process overall. Regular eye examinations can identify problems so that early treatment can prevent progression.
Then, there are those actions that specifically protect or improve eyesight, like avoiding excessive sunlight and UV light, using eye protection when necessary and eye exercises.