You’re starting to feel the aches and pains of getting older and you’re wondering how to prevent your eyes from being the next body part to lose its youth. Rest assured that there are tons of ways to keep your vision, along with the rest of your body, in top shape. Aging does not mean diminishing vision!
Staying active, eating healthy, and keeping your overall health in good shape are all important factors in maintaining your vision as you age.
Did you know that the number of people that will develop visual impairments is likely to double by 2050? That’s a lot of people wearing glasses and requiring eye surgery! The first step to preventing yourself from becoming part of that statistic is to stay active.
One common issue that affects our eyes is high blood pressure. Since our eyes are made of lots of tiny blood vessels, high blood pressure can damage those delicate vessels which will reduce blood flow to the retina. If your retina doesn’t get enough blood flow you can get blurry vision, in addition to nerve damage and fluid build-up. High blood pressure can be treated with regular exercises, like walking, jogging, and swimming.
It’s also important to stay active to prevent diabetes. Diabetes is commonly known to lead to vision loss, glaucoma, and complete blindness. In addition to the eating tips we will mention below, staying active to keep your muscles strong and weight balanced are incredibly beneficial in preventing the onset of diabetes. Diabetes and other health issues that affect your vision, like age-related macular degeneration, have been proven to decrease in risk when you stay active.
Aging doesn’t mean you have to stay inside all the time and stop being active. Actually, the longer you can stay active, the longer you can prolong the immobility that often affects seniors. Make it a habit to go for a walk every day for 30 minutes minimum. Stretch twice a day to maintain flexibility. If you can find an activity you enjoy doing or you can do with a friend, it will be easier to commit to doing it regularly.
There are a handful of foods that are specifically beneficial to improving and maintaining your vision as you age. Just as your doctor recommends you start increasing your calcium intake as you age to protect your bones, there are foods you should increase consumption for your eyes’ health. Consuming a balanced and varied diet will keep your body nourished and your mind sharp. Among the important nutrients you need to maintain your vision are antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and lutein and zeaxanthin.
A common health issue among the aging generation is the development of cataracts, glaucoma, and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Studies have shown that eyes that have higher amounts of lutein are less likely to develop AMD. That’s just one of the many reasons you need to incorporate these specific nutrients into your diet sooner rather than later.
Here are some nutrient-packed food options that are great for your eyes as you age:
- Dark, leafy greens
- Fish and other seafood
- Dark chocolate
- Chia seeds
Another crucial component of your diet should be drinking enough water every day. Water is important for each body part, especially your eyes, as you age. Dehydration is one of the most common reasons for hospitalization of older adults, as well as for dry eyes and eye muscle strain. When the body doesn’t have enough hydration, it tries to conserve whatever fluid it does have. This results in dry eyes, mouth, and stiff muscles. If the muscles in your eye are stiff, they’re less able to contract and extend when you switch from looking at something up-close to far away.
Besides staying active and eating a healthy diet, here are some other important ways you can maintain your vision as you age:
- Do eye stretches regularly. It’s important to prevent your eyes from becoming stiff and rigid because not only will you feel pain from eye strain, but your lenses won’t be able to adjust your focus as readily. There are tons of different stretches you can do but start with a basic one. Roll your eyes to look up at the ceiling for 10 seconds, then down at the floor for 10 seconds, and side to side for 10 seconds each. You should also stretch your eyes by gazing at objects that are varying distances away.
- Don’t smoke cigarettes. Smokers are three times as likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. Smoking can cause high blood pressure which we know affects our vision, as well as glaucoma and vision loss due to diabetes. Plus, a common side effect of smoking is dry eyes. No matter your age, it’s never too late to quit smoking. Your eyes will thank you for it.
- Go for regular checkups with your optometrist. Not only is it good to make sure your prescription is still accurate, your doctor can check for any abnormalities on your eyes that you should address.
- Get outside! It’s extremely beneficial for your eyes to have a break from everything you look at being within 10 feet away indoors. When you go outside, your eye muscles can stretch and relax as they look into the distance.
- Limiting your TV and computer time as well as how often you stare at your phone will also benefit your eyes.
Aging is a natural process we all go through and it’s nothing to be worried about if you take care of your health. Stay active so that your overall health, in addition to your vision, improves. Eat a healthy diet so that your eyes get the specific nutrients they need. And, make choices with your vision in mind. If your eyes start to hurt from watching TV, go outside. If your eyes are constantly dry because of smoking, consider quitting. Aging is out of your control, but maintaining your health and your vision are within it.