Ways To Protect Your Eye Health Daily

Vision loss is more common than you may think. Globally, the World Health Organization states that at least 2.2 billion people have a near or distance vision impairment. In at least 1 billion of these cases, the vision impairment was preventable or has not yet been addressed. In other words, you do have some control over protecting your eye health and preventing vision loss.

Fortunately, protecting your eyes does not have to be complicated. There are simple steps you can take on a daily basis to preserve your eye health as you age.

1. Wear sunglasses 

Exposing your eyes to ultraviolet (UV) rays may cause damage over time. Wearing sunglasses can block harmful UV light, lowering your risk of eye diseases like cataracts, sunburn, eye cancer and growths around the eye, per the American Academy of Ophthalmology. Polarized glasses with smoke or gray lenses may offer the best protection against the sun’s rays and reduce glare.

Read more: Best Prescription Sunglasses

2. Take screen breaks

Prolonged screen time can cause dry eyes, pain in the neck and shoulders, blurred vision, headaches and digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome. The American Optometric Association recommends using the 20-20-20 rule to prevent computer vision syndrome. Every 20 minutes, look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds.

3. Take book breaks, too

Screen time isn’t the only way to strain your eyes. When you read a book, you probably hold it up close for long periods of time. Both activities can lead to nearsightedness, or myopia, which means faraway objects are blurry, while up-close objects are clear. Just like you should use the 20-20-20 rule to take screen breaks, you should also use this rule for book breaks. If you find yourself engrossed in what you’re reading or doing on the computer, set an alarm so you don’t miss your breaks.

A woman holds her eyes in pain, glasses in hand.

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4. Move your body 

Regular exercise can provide eye health benefits, such as promoting healthy blood vessels and lowering your risk of developing glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) reports. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity every week, plus two days of strength training for your muscles. You can also practice eye exercises to reduce tension and eye strain while sitting at your desk.

Read more: 7 Fitness Hacks to Sneak in Exercise Painlessly Every Day

5. Get outside

Children and adults need to get outside often, even if they get their recommended exercise indoors. Research shows that children who spend time outdoors have a lower risk of developing nearsightedness in adolescence and as adults. Playing with your kids at the local playground, walking through the woods or even playing in the backyard can help the whole family stay healthy and active. Be sure to use your sunglasses!

6. Quit smoking

It’s well known that smoking is bad for your health. It can also increase your risk of developing eye diseases like cataracts or age-related macular degeneration (AMD), according to the Food and Drug Administration. Smokers have a two- or three-times higher chance of developing cataracts and up to four times higher risk for AMD. Future research may determine if smoking cigarettes can also cause glaucoma, Graves’ eye disease, thyroid eye disease and encourage diabetic retinopathy onset or progression. To improve your health, build a quit plan.

Fresh carrots on a wooden cutting board.

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7. Eat balanced meals

The foods you eat every day can improve your eye health. Eating foods rich in vitamins A, C and E, beta-carotene, omega-3 fatty acids, lutein, zeaxanthin and zinc can help cellular growth, lower eye tissue inflammation and limit free radicals that can damage your eyes.

To get the right nutrients for your eyes, eat balanced meals by including some of these foods in your regular diet, as recommended by the AAO:

  • Vitamin A and beta-carotene: Apricots, carrots, cantaloupe, sweet potatoes, red pepper, ricotta cheese, mango
  • Vitamin C: Grapefruit, oranges, lemons, tangerines, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, red bell pepper
  • Vitamin E: Avocados, almonds, peanut butter, wheat germ, sunflower seeds
  • Omega-3: Halibut, sardines, salmon, tuna, trout
  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin: Collards, broccoli, eggs, peas, kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, turnip greens
  • Zinc: Lima beans, kidney beans, black-eyed peas, lean red meats, oysters, fortified cereals, poultry

Read more: Best Vitamins and Supplements for Eye Health

8. Avoid rubbing your eyes

Habitually rubbing your eyes could cause eye damage or infections. Dry eyes and eye strain can make you want to rub your eyes, and some may rub them too much or too hard. This can lead to issues such as reduced or blurry vision, headaches, inflammation, and eye and light sensitivity. Another reason to avoid eye rubbing is that bacteria or viruses on your fingers or hands could lead to conjunctivitis, commonly called pink eye. Instead of rubbing your eyes, use eye drops or saline to clean your eyes and keep them moist. Resist the urge and find something else to keep your hands busy until you undo the habit.

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9. Wash your hands

You should always wash your hands before touching your face or eyes and handling contact lenses. Almost 45 million Americans wear contact lenses, and around one in three wearers develop complications, with one in five infections from contact lenses causing corneal damage. 

Plus, there’s no telling what kinds of germs might have already contaminated an object you’ve touched. Washing your hands regularly can lower your risk of respiratory illness by up to 21% and diarrheal illness by up to 40%, the CDC reports. 

10. Take off your makeup

After a long day, the last thing you might think about is removing your eye makeup before you get into bed. Doing so benefits your eye health and can lower your risk of blepharitis or eyelid inflammation, according to the Optometrists Network. 

You should also adopt good makeup practices that can save your skin and eyes, such as only using products made for eyes, replacing your makeup often (especially after an eye infection), not applying eye makeup in the inner lids and never sharing eye makeup with someone else. If you use brushes or sponges to apply eye makeup, wash them regularly.