In the hierarchy of human senses, the gift of sight is our most precious. Our eyes are our most important organs as they perceive up to 80% of our impressions. Vision is crucial to your independence and adds joy to your life when seeing the leaves turn in Autumn, a baby’s smile, or a beautiful sunset.
In today’s world, we place more stress on our eyes than at any other time in history. We spend more time staring at our iPhones, tablets, computers, and televisions, leading to eye fatigue and accelerating age-related eye problems. As we age, our risk increases for eye problems, such as cataracts, diabetic eye disease, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and dry eyes. The National Eye Institute predicts that macular health concerns will reach epidemic proportions within the next ten years.
However, you can employ strategies to improve your vision today and avoid diminished eyesight as you age. In this guide, we’ll give you a comprehensive review of those strategies, from lifestyle changes to diet, supplementation, exercise, and much more. It’s never too soon to begin a healthy regimen for your eyes, and as you will see, many of the tips below are beneficial for overall health and wellness. So, ready to learn how to improve your eyesight? Let’s get started!
How To Improve Your Eyesight: Lifestyle Changes
As with many articles dealing with better health, we begin by addressing lifestyle decisions. We discuss smoking, alcohol consumption, diet, and exercise.
This habit obviously puts you at risk for cancer and heart disease; however, did you know that after genetics, smoking is the number one risk factor for macular degeneration and developing cataracts. Quitting or never starting will benefit your blood vessels and reduce chronic inflammation.
Short-term, alcohol slows the communication between the brain and your eyes, resulting in double or blurred vision. The morning after, bloodshot eyes are a sure sign of alcohol abuse. Longer-term abuse can put you at increased risk for cataracts.
Diet – The Best Foods For Your Eyes
Maintaining a healthy diet is crucial for weight management. Those who are overweight are at increased risk for cataracts and glaucoma and can lead to type 2 diabetes and diabetic retinopathy.
Our Supplement segment will explain the importance of antioxidants and specific vitamins and minerals for eye health. Many foods are naturally rich sources of these essential nutrients:
- Citrus Fruits
- Egg Yolks
- Red and Yellow Peppers
- Broccoli, Brussel Sprouts
- Liver and Cod Liver Oil
- Garlic, Onions, Capers
- Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens
- Strawberries, Blueberries, Grapes
- Pumpkin and Sweet Potato
Omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, or herring; nuts and seeds, like flaxseed and walnuts, are also excellent for eye health.
When combined with a healthy diet, regular exercise is an excellent strategy to maintain lean muscle and your waistline. Being overweight or obese can lead to diabetes and diabetic retinopathy, causing damage to the tiny blood vessels in your eyes.
We address specific eye exercises and the Bates method in more detail a bit later in the article.
Get Regular Check-Ups And Know Your Families Eye Health History
Two essential and common-sense strategies for protecting and improving your eyesight are frequent eye exams with an optometrist or ophthalmologist and researching your family’s eye health history for hereditary conditions.
Getting Regular Eye Exams
Before age 70, you should have an eye exam no less than once every two years – after age 70, you should have an annual exam. A comprehensive eye exam can detect problems before you experience symptoms enabling early, corrective treatment.
Hereditary Eye Conditions
Eye conditions such as glaucoma, macular degeneration, or retinal degeneration may be hereditary. Knowing your family’s eye health history and sharing this information with your ophthalmologist can alert you to the potential for these conditions so that you can take the necessary precautions.
Identify And Address Underlying Health Conditions
We’ve previously addressed diabetes and the potential for diabetic retinopathy, so staying fit and getting your blood sugar under control are crucial. Other health conditions that may adversely affect your eye health include elevated blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, and chronic low-level inflammation. Foods and supplements with anti-inflammatory properties can help address the optic nerve’s inflammation, which can be painful and even result in vision loss.
Supplementation To Improve Your Eyesight
Due to the renewed concern for eye health due to increased exposure to blue light and the prevalence of age-related macular degeneration supplement ingredient manufacturers have increased clinical trials with several compounds, including lutein and zeaxanthin. The NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), in a recap of these trials, reports that “Observational studies have reported increased dietary intake and higher serum levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with a lower risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trials have demonstrated the preventive and therapeutic effects of lutein and zeaxanthin on cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and retinopathy of prematurity.”
Lutein is a carotenoid found naturally in fruits and vegetables such as spinach, kale, and Swiss chard and acts as an antioxidant in the human body. Carotenoid pigments (lutein and zeaxanthin) are found in high concentrations in the retina, where these cells shield against excess blue light and ultraviolet light. Scientific research shows that lutein supplementation helps to improve vision naturally.
Zeaxanthin is another carotenoid (with antioxidant properties) found in dark green vegetables, yellow fruits, and egg yolks that neutralizes free radicals and protects the eyes from light-induced damage. Zeaxanthin is frequently used in combination with lutein in eye care supplements in the same 5:1 as they naturally occur in your retina.
Other Highly Effective Eye Health Supplements
Vitamins & Minerals
Vitamins A, C, E, and the mineral zinc are essential for good vision and are antioxidants that help prevent macular degeneration.
Closely related to lutein and zeaxanthin, beta-carotene is a pigment found in carrots and other vegetables. In the body, beta-carotene converts into vitamin A (retinol), essential for good vision.
Vitamin B1 (Thiamine)
B1 is another essential vitamin for the health of your eyes. When taken with other vitamins, thiamine may reduce your risk of developing cataracts. B1 also has anti-inflammatory properties, important for eye health.
During our research, we discovered a relatively new product, Saffron MD. The product contains a 20 mg dose of saffron extract in combination with lutein and zeaxanthin. Clinical studies on saffron extract at the same 20 mg dose were shown to improve visual acuity in as little as 90 days.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Photoreceptor cells in your retina contain a large quantity of omega-3 fatty acids believed to help develop retinal cells. Known for its beneficial anti-inflammatory effects, omega 3 is thought to have a role in reducing inflammation after damage due to light exposure and aging. Low levels of omega-3 fatty acids often correlate with dry eye syndrome and retinopathy.
Although the American Academy of Ophthalmology emphatically denies that natural vision correction is possible, some still believe there is a benefit to eye exercises such as eye massage, focus and relaxation techniques, and other activities:
- Warming the eyes by rubbing your hands together to create heat and then placing them against your eyes.
- Rolling your eyes. Start at 12:00 and rotate your eyes clockwise several times – then reverse and repeat counter-clockwise.
- Hold an object at arm’s length, focus your eyes on it, and slowly bring the object closer until it’s about 6 inches away from your nose. Then slowly move it back, keeping your eyes focused on the item. Repeat ten times.
- Temple massage. Use your thumb knuckles to massage your temples in small circles, twenty times in each direction. Repeat the exercise directly above the mid-point of the eyebrows and then below the eyes on both sides of the nose’s bridge.
The Bates Method
In the 1920s, eye-care physician William Horatio Bates theorized that all sight problems are due to chronic “strain” of the eyes. He believed that relieving such “strain” would cure the problem and developed a series of eye relaxation exercises. It should be noted that the method has never been proven effective in providing significant or lasting vision improvement.
Wear Protective Eyewear To Improve Your Eyesight
Another common-sense strategy is to protect your eyes by wearing protective eyewear.
Whether you’re playing racquetball, pickleball, or a pick-up game of basketball, safety goggles are an excellent idea. Likewise, when doing work around the house or in the shop where chemicals, wood, or metal shards are possible, safety glasses should be mandatory.
The sun’s ultraviolet rays can increase the risk of cataracts and skin cancer on the eyelids. Wearing a good pair of sunglasses that block out UVA and UVB rays is one of the easiest, perhaps coolest strategies in your arsenal.
The Benefits Of Eye Drops For Improving Eyesight
Most commercial eye drops use a saline base to address dry and red eyes. Drops may allow you to see clearer as a dry eye surface can make things blurry. We recommend preservative-free artificial tears; however, if you use a product with preservatives, limit usage to no more than six times per day.
Can eye drops reverse poor vision? It seems one Israeli company is making progress towards this end as their clinical trials are indicating their product may improve farsightedness or the inability to see or read nearby objects. While the results sound promising, the drops do not claim to be a one-time cure for poor eyesight. They are limited to treating presbyopia, also known as age-related farsightedness.
Resting Your Eyes
Periodic breaks from the computer or any blue light device are strongly recommended, as is getting sufficient sleep each night.
The 20-20-20 Rule
We suggest you give your eyes periodic breaks for those who spend your days at a computer screen. To ease eye strain, take a 20-second break every 20 minutes, and focus on something 20 feet away.
R&R For Your Eyes
Quality sleep is essential for eye health.; just like your muscles, sleep allows your eyes to rest, repair, and recover. Not getting enough sleep may even weaken your vision.
At a minimum, step away from any blue light device at least once per hour for ten minutes or so.
Another relaxation technique is to place cooled cucumber slices over your eyelids just like they do at the spa if your eyes are tired, red, or burning.
In Summary: How To Improve Your Eyesight
One last tip – given how susceptible your eyes are to germs and infections, be sure to wash your hands frequently, particularly before touching your face and eyes.
Now you know how to improve your eyesight, from lifestyle to nutritious foods. Don’t forget supplementation, as well. You can find some solid choices for eye health supplements in our guide to the best eye supplements. All of these eye health strategies will help you protect your vision for the long term, maintain your independence, and allow you to continue to enjoy viewing life’s beautiful moments.