Your eyes are one of your body’s most valuable organs, so it goes without saying you should be doing all you can to take care of them. Of course, things being what they are today finding the time to really look after your eyes can be difficult, which is why improving your eyesight through exercise and nutrition is one of the best things you can do.
No doubt you’ve heard just how important it is to eat right for your eyesight, but how many of you are following through on that.
If you have a healthy diet consisting of lots of fruit and vegetables, it can seriously help improve your eyesight and keep it from deteriorating. You also want to be consuming the right vitamins and minerals to support your eye health. These include vitamins A, C, E, Lutein, omega-3 fatty acids, selenium and zinc.
When you hear ‘vitamin A’ you are probably thinking about carrots and you’d be on the money. Carrots are a top source of vitamin A — also known as beta-carotene — but you can also find it in liver, milk, pumpkins, eggs, sweet potato and spinach. Vitamin A helps protect the surface of your eyes and can also protect against cataracts and dry eye.
Because your body doesn’t store vitamin C it’s important you include it in your daily diet. You’ll find good sources of the vitamin in orange juice, as well as in spinach and brocolli. Vitamin C helps your body maintain its connective tissue, but it also helps the collagen in your cornea and has been shown to reduce the risk of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration.
Rich in antioxidants that help your body to heal, vitamin E can help reduce your risk of developing cataracts. You’ll find vitamin E in wholegrain cereals, sunflower seeds, peanut butter, olives and almonds.
This powerful antioxidant gives fruits and vegetables a yellow colour, but it also helps protect your eyes from damaging light. While you are born with some lutein in your eyes, your body stops producing it so its important you add extra. You can do this by eating kale, spinach, zucchini, corn and yellow capsicum.
Omega-3 fatty acids
It’s the healthy kind of fat your eyes need to survive, so an adequate intake of omega-3 fatty acids can help reduce your risk of macular degeneration. Another benefit of omega-3 is that it protects your eyes from damaging light and inflammation. Obviously one of the best sources of this fatty acid is salmon, but you can also get it from tuna and sardines, flax seeds, walnuts and leafy green vegetables.
There have been studies to suggest that selenium taken in conjunction with vitamins A and C can prevent you developing macular degeneration. You can find selenium in crab, prawns and brown rice.
Zinc has been found to reduce the process of age-related macular degeneration. Your body can’t produce zinc so you have to get it as part of your diet. You can find good sources of zinc in oysters, beef, eggs, baked beans, and yoghurt.
While diet is one way to improve and maintain your eye health, another is ensuring your get plenty of rest. If you spend time in front of the computer, or looking at a tiny smartphone screen, watching television or reading you need to give your eyes a good rest. You can do this by taking a 10-minute break every hour you spend in front of a screen or the pages of a book, magazine or newspaper. Close your eyes.
Another way you can rest your eyes is with something called the 10-10-10 rule. This is where you look at something 10 feet away for 10 seconds every 10 minutes.
Finally, making sure you get a good night’s sleep is also important for your eye health.
Eye exercises can be done daily, and should be if you want to strengthen your eyes and improve your vision. Here are five exercises you can do.
You might do this one without too much thought, but when you spend a considerable amount of time looking at computer screens, smartphone screens, tablets, the television and books you blink less.
To regulate circulation in your eyes, close your eyes for 3-5 seconds and then open them. Do this several times. Then over a 2-minute period, blink every 3-5 seconds.
When you blink, your eyes are plunged — albeit briefly — into darkness and this helps keep them fresh. What this also does it dismiss ‘old’ information and prepare your eyes for new information, which in turn helps reduce eye strain.
A good way of alleviating the stress around your eyes is to place your palms over your closed eyes and allow yourself to relax for 1 minute. This activity also gives you an opportunity to relax your mind.
Near and Far
You can do this exercise almost anywhere. You want to sit (or stand) in a comfortable position and focus on something near in front of you and then allow your gaze to rest on something in the distance. Repeat this up to 10 times.
Over time this activity will strengthen the muscles in your eyes and improve your vision.
Zoom In, Zoom Out
Another good exercise to help strengthen your eye muscles — and give your focussing skills a good workout — is to take your fore finger (or your thumb) and stretch it in front of you as far as your arm will go. Focus on the finger and move it towards you until it is about 5cm from your face. Now move it away from you again until your arm is fully outstretched. Remain focussed on your finger at all times.
Figure of Eight
This exercise is designed to assist in controlling your eye’s movement. Focus on a point on the floor and imagine there is a figure of eight. Using your eyes only, trace around the figure of eight slowly. When you’ve traced in one direction, reverse it and trace in the opposite direction.