Make Eye Health a Priority

  • Published
  • By Captain Felicia Rinken
  • 52nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron
Your vision is a big part of how you experience your world, and the eyes are "windows to your soul." The status of your overall health is reflected in your eye health which is best observed by your optometrist during a dilated eye exam.

In celebration of "Healthy Vision Month," I wish to share with you ways to preserve bodily health which naturally helps eyesight--such as maintaining a healthy weight, being physically active, managing chronic conditions, eating a well-balanced diet, and avoiding tobacco products.

For those diagnosed with diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol it is important to keep a tight control on these conditions to lower the risk for bleeding and decreased oxygen in the eye, decreased vision, and blindness. We all should participate in 30 minutes of moderate activity five times per week and consume a nutritious diet low in sugar.

Some conditions such as diabetes and sun exposure over time can cause cataracts. Ultraviolet (UV) rays cause damage to the retina and central vision, cause benign or cancerous growths on the eye, and cause cataracts. It is important that children and adults wear UV blocking sunglasses and a hat, limit absorption of damaging rays by decreasing time outside between 1000 and 1400, and consume foods that are antioxidant rich. 

Two important antioxidants for eye health are lutein and zeaxanthin found in dark green vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, greens, as well as kiwi) and deep orange produce (sweet potatoes, carrots, butternut squash, and mangoes). Not only should one protect his/her eyes from UV rays, but also wear proper eye protection when playing sports, doing hobbies, cutting the lawn or as required for your occupation to maintain healthy eyes.

Smoking has been linked to a decline in eye health (e.g. age-related macular degeneration (ARMD) and optic nerve damage). Smoking cessation and consumption of leafy green vegetables in addition to UV protection will decrease the risk of ARMD to preserve your central vision. Vitamin D protects against ARMD; salmon, sardines, eggs, mushrooms, fortified dairy and alternatives, and other fortified foods are your best sources.  For those diagnosed with ARMD, you can take a formulated vitamin such as AREDS or Ocuvite.

At times we all experience dry eyes. Dryness can be combated with proper hydration and omega-3 fatty acid consumption. Eat fish such as salmon, herring, or trout two times weekly or add walnuts or ground flaxseed to shakes, cereal or meals to do the body--and your eyes--good!

Remember, it is best to get nutrients naturally so eat these great foods before reaching for the pill form.

Fill your plate with a rainbow of color from fruits and vegetables, as well as lean protein, low-fat dairy and whole grains at each meal to guarantee eating right for your sight!