Many people begin to use “reading” glasses at they get older due to presbyopia (or farsightedness). But aside from this common condition, experiencing vision problems as you get older isn’t unavoidable.
In fact, there are countless science-backed ways to keep your vision sharp and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond. So, today, let’s talk about five of them…
Five ways to protect your eyesight as you age
1.) Shade your eyes, but not your skin. There’s a strange, persistent myth in some places that gazing at the sun can improve eye health and vision. But in reality, staring at the sun without proper eye protection, even for just a short time, can damage the retina at the back of the eye and cause blindness!
Plus, even if you don’t stare directly at the sun, simply spending a lot of time outdoors over your lifetime, without protective eyewear, can damage your eyes and cause cataracts.
So, when spending time in Nature (or even when driving during the day), always wear sunglasses that block 99 percent of UVA and UVB, two types of ultraviolet (UV) light. For extra protection, you can also wear a visor or a brimmed hat.
Just remember, while it’s vital to protect your eyes from the direct sunlight, you don’t want to block the rest of your body from receiving it. That’s because your skin needs exposure to UVB light to activate vitamin D production in the body. And the more vitamin D in your bloodstream, the lower your risk of developing cardiovascular disease and Type II diabetes, both of which can harm your eyes.
That’s why I routinely encourage you to expose as much skin as possible to the sun, for 10 to 15 minutes daily, before donning more protective clothing to avoid sunburn. (Never reach for toxic sunscreen!)
2.) Invest in a good desk light. While reading or working in dim light does not harm vision, it can cause your eyes to grow tired. So, for reading and working, I suggest investing in a good desk lamp. Shine the light directly onto the page and not over your shoulder.
When I started medical school in 1974, I found a desk lamp at the college store with a gooseneck stem, a wide, polished, wooden base, and big “on” and “off” buttons. I used it all during my training for the next 10 years. Then, my daughter used it all during her school years.
Today, I’m back in Maryland visiting with my daughter following the birth of our granddaughter, and that same light is still working on the desk in the room where I’m composing this Dispatch.
3.) Give your eyes a rest. More and more professionals today spend all day staring at a computer screen. And like reading in low light, this habit can tire your eyes. People also tend to blink less than normal when they stare at computers, so their eyes may become dry and uncomfortable.
To help lessen this effect, I suggest keeping your computer screen (or any device screen) at least 18 inches away from your face when working or reading. In addition, take a break every 20 minutes and look at something in the distance. (As an added bonus, taking a break from work by standing up will benefit your overall health in other ways, as I recently reported.)
And remember…your eyes will recover just fine from any position—even a cross-eyed position. Just make sure you give them regular breaks when working. (I remember my grandmother used to warn me that if I crossed my eyes, they might stay that way permanently. Especially if a church bell rang at the same time. But, now I know there’s not any truth to that myth.)
4.) Avoid engaging in “excess-ercise.” On Tuesday, I reported yet again on the many dangers of overdoing it in a gym. This type of excessive exercise…or what I call “excess-ercise”…can harm your joints, heart, GI tract, and kidneys. And now, we know it can even harm your eyesight.
In fact, in a recent study of more than 200,000 participants, men and women who engaged in high-intensity exercise had up to a 49 percent higher risk overall of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) than their peers.
Plus, the effects of high-intensity exercise were even worse among younger people between the ages of 45 to 64 years: They had up to a 63 percent higher risk overall of developing AMD.
So, as always, simply aim to get just 140 to 150 minutes total each week of light-to-moderate exercise. Science shows this weekly total is the optimal amount to improve your longevity…and even protect your eyesight!
5.) Maintain a healthy, balanced diet. To help maintain good eyesight at any age, you should focus on adopting a healthy, balanced, Mediterranean-type diet.
Specifically, look to add fruits and vegetables that contain carotenoids, such as lutein, into your diet. (As you may recall, I helped discover the role of carotenoids in foods and in human metabolism during the mid-1980s.)
Carotenoids are the pigments that make certain fruits and vegetables red, orange, or yellow. (The word actually comes from carrots, which are typically bright orange.)
Here are other foods that can help protect your vision as you get older:
- Blueberries have been shown in many studies to help improve eyesight—particularly from a disorder called tension glaucoma, which affects the optic nerve. So plan to go out and get some fresh blueberries this summer while they’re in season. Then, enjoy a handful each day. You can also find blueberry powder supplements, which you can add to water or juice.
- Dark chocolate (at least 75 to 80 percent cacao) may help improve vision in people with glaucoma, as well as reduce the risk of macular degeneration. So go ahead and indulge…just don’t overdo it. (And don’t opt for milk chocolate. Remember, the more cacao, the less sugar and other artificial additives—and the more healthy nutrients you’ll ingest.)
- Fatty fish like salmon and “chunk light” tuna contain important omega-3 fatty acids, which science links to a lower risk of AMD and dry eye. (I routinely report on the many health benefits of omega-3s…most recently in the April issue of my monthly Insiders’ Cures newsletter.)
Dive deeper and keep learning
In addition to the above five lifestyle changes, you can learn much more about how to protect your vision at any age in the August 2020 issue of my monthly newsletter, Insiders’ Cures (“My ABCs for brain and eye health”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.
You can also learn about additional simple, natural strategies to stay vibrant, youthful, and healthy well into your 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond in my online protocol, The Insider’s Ultimate Guide to Outsmarting “Old Age.” To learn more about this comprehensive learning tool, or enroll today, click here now!