Healthy Eyes Part 2: Daily Habits for Vision Health

July 20, 2019

"Let’s talk about how diet, exercise, and hydration can help protect your eyes and preserve the quality of your eyesight."

Today’s live show with Dr. Nancy Lin, PhD, holistic nutritionist is part 2 in her series on eye health. Today Dr. Nancy is talking about important things we should be doing every day to help preserve our valuable eyes, and addressing common age-related eye problems. We’ll share some techniques we can do at home, important dietary and supplement tips, and which lifestyle choices may be causing your eye health to prematurely deteriorate.

Video Highlights

  • 03:27: Recap of Part 1
  • 07:13: How Your Diet and Exercise Can Protect Your Eyes
  • 10:41: Exercises for Stronger Eyes
  • 22:03: Top 5 Eye Health Nutrients
  • 30:18: Stay hydrated
  • 40:04: Blueberry Peach Smoothie with chia seeds
  • 44:16: Wrap-up

In part 1, we reminded you that you only get one pair of eyes — that’s why it’s important to take good care of them. We also went through the many issues that can go wrong over time with your eyes. While eye problems and eye diseases become more prevalent with age, fortunately, many can be prevented or corrected if you:

  • See your family physician regularly to check for diseases that could cause eye problems, like diabetes.
  • Visit your ophthalmologist every year. Having a complete eye exam with an eye specialist is important because most eye diseases can be treated when found in an early stage. If you’ve been to the eye doctor, you know the drill — the eye doctor may dilate or enlarge your pupils by putting drops in your eyes. You should also have a screening for glaucoma. The doctor will then test your eyesight, your glasses, and your eye muscles.
  • If you have diabetes or a family history of eye disease, you may need to get an eye exam with pupil dilation more often. And always see an eye doctor immediately if you have any loss of eyesight, blurred vision, eye pain, double vision, redness, swelling of your eye or eyelid, or fluids coming from the eye.

How Your Diet and Exercise Can Protect Your Eyes

So let’s talk about how diet, exercise, and hydration can help protect your eyes and preserve the quality of your eyesight.

The eyes are really vascular, so a heart-healthy diet that’s low in trans and saturated fat is important to keep the blood vessels of the eyes healthy. Foods rich in antioxidants are also known to help protect the eyes from age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), which is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. These foods also help prevent cataracts and other eye-related conditions. 

Studies looking at age-related eye disease consistently show that people who supplement their diet with Vitamin C, antioxidants, zinc, beta-carotene, and vitamin E experience a 25% reduction in risk of developing serious eye health issues as they age. We’ll share our top 5 nutrients for eye health but first... we constantly talk about the importance of exercise for overall health, and this principle applies to eye health as well — your eyes are muscles and you need to exercise them to keep them strong and healthy! 

Now many people’s vision naturally gets worse with age. If you have blurry vision due to nearsightedness, farsightedness or age-related difficulty seeing up close, you may need prescription eyewear. In addition to having an eye exam to get a diagnosis and prescription from a professional, you should consider vision exercises to improve or maintain your vision.

Exercises for Stronger Eyes

The Trombone

Hold a small object, such as a pen, at arm’s length. Focus on the object as you slowly bring it back to touch your nose. Then stay focused on it as you move it back out to arm’s length. One way to do this is to hold a pencil vertically in front of you and focus on the writing on the side. Concentrate on keeping the words in focus as you slowly bring the pencil closer to your eyes. Do 10 reps once a day for 2 to 3 weeks.

Eye Massage

Using your fingertips, apply gentle, steady pressure or do a circular massage of the areas around the outside of your eye sockets. This helps ease tension and relax your facial muscles.

Analytic Vision

When looking at any object (or person, written words, etc.) you can try analyzing it visually using micromovements. Basically, you look at the object and “draw” the edges and lines within the object, tracing the details with your eyes. However, the idea is to move quickly from element to element so that you’re not trying to focus in on any part in particular. Blink freely as you go. Then look at the object as a whole to see if it appears clearer.

Flash Method

Use a deck of cards or pack of dominos as flash cards. Draw a card or cube from the pile, hold it at arm’s length and glance at it for less than a second, blinking as you wish. Stop looking at it and try to guess how many dots were on the domino or what card it was.

Shifting Focus

Shift focus between your fingertip and something across the room five to 10 times. This helps maintain flexibility of the muscle tissues that encircle your lenses and control your range of focus.

These exercises can be repeated until your eyes feel tired. With age, doing exercises like this become more important. Try to spend a few minutes a day on each, a few days a week, and even do them several times each day if you can. 

It’s also important for you to take care of your eye health by managing underlying health conditions. Vision problems are often related to underlying health problems like heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic and preventable conditions. To improve your vision, you may need to first treat your other health issue. Please work with your eye doctor and a medical professional to come up with the optimal plan for your main health condition as well as your vision.

Then, make sure you’re getting plenty of the nutrients your eyes need to stay healthy: 

Top 5 Eye Health Nutrients

Lutein

Lutein is an antioxidant that’s absolutely essential for your eye health. Lutein actually protects both the eyes and your skin. This anti-inflammatory, carotenoid phytonutrient is found in foods like leafy green vegetables, egg yolks, citrus fruits, and orange veggies, like carrots. Once you eat it, it’s transported around the body, especially to the parts of the eye called the macula and the lens.

Researchers at Harvard University have found that supplementing with six milligrams daily of lutein can lower the risk for macular degeneration by nearly 45% — making it essential to your daily diet as you age!

Zeaxanthin

There are more than 600 different types of carotenoids found in nature — these are the pigments that give fruits and vegetables their colors. They are powerful antioxidants, but only about 20 make their way into the eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are the most important since they’re delivered in the highest quantities into the eye. Just like lutein, zeaxanthin helps protect the eye’s tissue, lens and macula, which clears vision and prevents glare, light sensitivity or disorders like cataracts. Like lutein, zeaxanthin is found in spinach, Swiss chard, kale, peas, broccoli, and asparagus.

Vitamin C

The antioxidant vitamin C does more than just fight colds — it also helps protect your vision by fighting free radicals and helping you absorb more trace minerals and nutrients in general. Studies show that many Americans are deficient in vitamin C, and that it is essential to help repair damaged tissue, slows down inflammatory responses, supports your immune system, protects eye health, and much more.

One long-term study also found that cataracts were 60% less common among people who reported regular consumption of vitamin C. You know the sources of vitamin C: citrus fruits!  One medium-sized orange provides 70 mg of vitamin C, which is 78% of the daily recommended intake — other sources include leafy greens, berries, cantaloupe, watermelon, broccoli, and pineapple.

Zinc

Studies have found that zinc in combination with other vitamins helps protect the retina and lower risk of macular degeneration. Zinc is one of the most important nutrients for helping with nutrient absorption (it’s involved in over 100 metabolic processes) and allowing for proper waste elimination, which fights inflammation and cellular damage. 

Zinc benefits tissues within the eyes because it plays a crucial role in proper cell division and cell growth, maintaining healthy circulation, balancing hormones that prevent autoimmune reactions, and controlling inflammatory cytokines that attack tissue. The human body does not synthesize the zinc it needs, so we need to obtain enough from sources like fish, grass-fed meat, and pumpkin seeds and nuts.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids have immense benefits for dozens of different health conditions, all because they’re inflammation fighting and able to slow down the effects of aging. Omega-3s stabilize blood sugar levels, which lowers inflammatory responses, helps fight eye damage caused by diabetes and improves circulation — so make sure you are including plenty of avocados, salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds in your diet! Another essential inflammation fighting nutrient for eye health is curcumin. Make sure you are taking your curcumin supplement every day to reduce inflammation not only for eye health, but for whole-body health.

Stay hydrated

Drinking plenty of water throughout the day is important for the health of your eyes. Dehydration can lead to dry eyes, red eyes and puffy eyelids — but you can easily prevent this by drinking tons of water.

We recently did a show on different types of water. Here is a quick way to keep your water interesting:

Eye-Healthy Infused Water

  • Add a handful of chopped herbs (mint, basil, rosemary, ginger, etc.) to a glass pitcher or jar
  • Choose one or two fruits and veggies (cucumber, fennel, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, watermelon). Slice and add to the pitcher.
  • Fill the container with filtered water and let it sit in the fridge for two hours so the flavors can infuse into the water. ENJOY!

A few of Dr. Nancy’s favorite combinations: cucumber and mint; strawberry and basil; peach, kiwi, and basil.

Also, try these yummy eye-health smoothie recipes — loaded with vitamin C, lutein, and Zeaxanthin, and omega-3s - and delicious!

Blueberry Peach Smoothie with chia seeds

  • 3/4 cup blueberries
  • 1 cup kale or spinach
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1 tbsp chia seeds 
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • ½  cup peaches

Add to blender, add ice, and enjoy!

Wrap-Up

Today we covered a ton of information on eye health in this series. In part 1, we described several of the most common eye-related health issues we experience as we age. In part 2, we talked a lot about the steps you can take to keep your eyes healthy as you get older, including specific eye exercises and tips you can practice on a daily basis, focusing the top 5 nutrients for eye health, especially lutein and zeaxanthin, staying hydrated, and supplementing with curcumin as a part of your plan to minimize the harmful effects associated with inflammation.

We hope you found this eye health series informative!  Make sure you share this important information with your friends and loved ones — our eye health is so important — we need to do everything we can to protect it!

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