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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 19 March, 2019

8 small habits that could help your eye health this year

And how it’s good news if you like avocado toast, according to Dr Nigel Best.

Image: Unsplash

THE FACT THAT YOUR eyes are currently able to scan these words and send them to your brain to interpret as a message is kind of amazing. But that not-so-simple process is something that we often take for granted.

In fact, it’s often something that we only really think about when things go wrong – if our sight becomes blurry when we’re tired or we start squinting at the TV. Luckily, if you’re working full-time you’re may be entitled to a free eye test or free glasses.

To learn a little more about how to protect our eyes, we heard from Dr Nigel Best, clinical spokesperson at Specsavers. Here are the habits he says you should make for them in 2019:

1. Watch a sad movie every so often

shutterstock_786302650 Source: Shutterstock/Africa Studio

While you might not love tearjerkers or tend to fight tears when you do feel them coming, taking a few minutes to cry can actually be great for keeping your eyes hydrated and avoiding infection. In fact, not crying enough can make our eyes uncomfortable. As Dr Best explains: 

When we don’t have enough tears they can become dry and irritated and we can start to get slightly blurred vision. Tears are so important – they can wash away foreign matter that comes into contact with your eyes, helping to reduce the risk of eye infections.

According to The Huffington Post, your tears also contain lysozyme, which is both antibacterial and antiviral, and glucose which nourishes the cells on the surface of your eye. This is along with a host of other emotional benefits including dulling pain, detoxifying your body and improving your mood, according to Healthline, so don’t fight it.

2. Stock up on salmon at the supermarket

caroline-attwood-301746-unsplash Source: Unsplash

Ever find that your eyes get dry late at night after a long day? When your eyes feel like this, they have become inflamed and this inflammation can damage the cells required for tear production – meaning a vicious cycle of dry, uncomfortable eyes. But how can our diet help this?

According to Dr Best, omega 3 essential fatty acids have been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects (like this study where they were equally effective to ibuprofen to reduce arthritic pain). Meanwhile, women who consumed at least five servings of tuna per week were found to be at a 68% reduced risk of dry eye syndrome in this study, so swap out meat and chicken for some delicious oily fish.

3. Get to bed a few hours earlier

sylvie-tittel-977140-unsplash Source: Unsplash

Ever get distracted by your eyes twitching? These spasms are known as myokymia and are usually down to a lack of sleep. According to the Neuro-ophthalmology Society of North America, it can also be caused by stress or excessive caffeine intake and usually occurs on one side, most likely on your lower eyelid. 

Fortunately, it tends to resolve itself without intervention. As Dr Best explains, sleep can be a great way to target it: “It’s essential that we give our bodies an opportunity to rest – including our eye muscles, which will help to stop them from twitching.”

4. Whip up some guacamole or avocado on toast

barry-mcgee-693911-unsplash Source: Unsplash

It’s an ingredient that may have caused a stir recently, but it contains nutrients that are really beneficial for our sight. As Dr Best explains, “Not only are they rich in zinc and vitamin B which staves off cataracts, they also have a high amount of lutein.” Lutein helps us filter blue light, preventing macular degeneration, or loss of your central vision.

According to the American Optometric Association, zinc plays a vital role in bringing vitamin A from the liver to the retina in order to produce melanin, a protective pigment in our eyes. Impaired vision such as night vision has been linked to a lack of zinc, so tuck into zinc-rich foods like avocado when you have the chance.

5. Get off a stop earlier during your commute

bram-1133613-unsplash Source: Unsplash

While it may seem obvious that exercise positively impacts your overall health, you may not realise the effect it can have on our eye health. According to Cleveland Clinic, regular exercise has been found to reduce your risk of common eye problems such as cataracts and glaucoma, so making habits that increase your daily exercise can have a big impact.

Dr Best explains that it doesn’t even have to be a strenuous activity to make a difference to your future eye health: “Studies have shown that regular exercise, such as walking, can reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration by up to 70%.” Exercise can also avoid eye-damaging conditions such as diabetes.

6. Take regular water breaks at work

annie-spratt-294450-unsplash Source: Unsplash

While you might be aware of the 20-20-20 rule to prevent digital eye strain (every 20 minutes, take a 20-second break to focus on something 20 feet away), it’s hard to put into practice during a busy day. According to Fast Company, most of us spend 6-9 hours a day on a digital device and we can start to feel eye strain in as little as two hours.

So, what are our options? Luckily Mayo Clinic has lots of small changes we can make to protect our eye health including ensuring the lighting isn’t too bright in our office, trying an anti-glare cover on our computer, placing your monitor away from a window or adjusting your contrast and colour settings to suit your eyes.

7. Always pack a good pair of sunglasses

s-o-c-i-a-l-c-u-t-630675-unsplash Source: Unsplash

You may not think that we have much opportunity to wear sunglasses in Ireland, but wearing them on bright days is actually very important for our eye health. According to the National Eye Institute, around a fifth of cataracts cases are caused by extended UV exposure, while macular degeneration can also be caused by the sun. 

They advise that when buying sunglasses, you need to look for 99-100% UVA and UVB protection. Meanwhile, ophthalmologist Lisa Park advises that sunglasses help to protect our retina, our lenses and against skin cancer on our eyelids. She warns that if you are choosing polarised lenses (which reduce glare), double check their UVA and UVB protection.

8. Book yourself in for a free eye test

shutterstock_1018444933 Source: Shutterstock/skvalval

One of the most powerful ways of protecting our eye health is to leave it in the capable hands of an expert and to organise for them to check your eyes regularly. According to Dean McGee Eye Institute, regular eye tests can identify potential problems early and prevent irreversible damage that can lead to vision loss and blindness.

Fortunately in Ireland, once you have the required number of PRSI contributions, you may be entitled to the Treatment Benefit Scheme which provides a free eyesight test every two years and payment towards the glasses that you choose, should you need them.

Want to look after your eye health for free? Specsavers are offering thousands of employed and self-employed people in Ireland a free eye test and a pair of their €59 range for free with PRSI Treatment Benefit. Or you can put it towards any of their €89 or above range. Find out what you might be entitled to here

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