2014-03-06 / Lifestyles

5 tips for a lifetime of healthy vision

LANSING – Vision plays an important role in daily life, every waking minute, the eyes are working hard to see the world around us. In fact, according to the American Optometric Association’s annual American Eye-Q survey, 40 percent of Americans worry about losing their eyesight over their ability to walk or hear.

AOA conducts Save Your Vision Month annually in March to help people preserve vision throughout their lifetime.

“It’s easy to incorporate steps into your daily routine to ensure healthy eyes and vision,” said Dr. David Cook, Michigan Optometric Association member and practicing optometrist in Cadillac, MI “Eating right, protecting against UV rays and visiting your local eye doctor on a yearly basis are just a few things that can help keep your eyes and vision strong.”

1. Schedule yearly comprehensive exams

Eye care should begin early in life. The MOA urges parents to bring infants six to 12 months of age to their local optometrist for a thorough assessment; under the Affordable Care Act, vision coverage is part of the Pediatric Essential Health Benefit. The good news is that millions of children (up to age 19) now have access to yearly comprehensive eye exams and follow-up care and treatment, such as eyeglasses, through their local doctor of optometry. Comprehensive exams performed by an optometrist not only evaluate a patient’s vision, but can also detect certain serious health problems, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

“Early detection and treatment is the best way to maintain good vision at any age,” said Dr. Cook. “Seeing a doctor of optometry yearly will help keep patients on the path to healthy eyes and vision throughout their lives.”

2. Protect against UV rays

Long-term exposure to the sun poses significant risk not just to your skin, but to your eyes as well. No matter what the season, it’s extremely important to wear sunglasses, choosing a pair that blocks more than 95 percent of UV-A and more than 99 percent of UV-B radiation. The AOA provides more information and tips for selection of sunglasses at www.aoa.org/patients-andpublic/ caring-for-your-vision/uvprotection.

3. Give your eyes a break from digital device use

Two-thirds of Americans spend up to 7 hours a day using computers or other digital devices such as tablets and smart phones. This constant eye activity increases the risk for computer vision syndrome and can cause problems such as dry eye, eyestrain, headaches, neck and/or backache, and fatigue. The MOA recommends that people practice the 20/20/20 rule (every 20 minutes, take a 20 second break and look at something 20 feet away).

In addition, a poorly designed computer station can also contribute to digital eyestrain. Be sure to correct factors such as improper lighting or uncomfortable seating, viewing angles and reading or working distances to eliminate visual stress and discomfort. A helpful diagram from the AOA on how to set up your desktop computer/laptop can be accessed at www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/ caring-for-your-vision/protectingyour vision/ computer- visionsyndrome.

4. Eat your greens!

As part of a healthful diet, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day, particularly the leafy green variety. Six nutrients, antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, essential fatty acids, vitamins C and E and the mineral zinc, have been identified as helping to protect eyesight and promote eye health. Since the body doesn’t make these nutrients naturally, it’s important that they are incorporated into a daily diet and, in some cases, supplemented with vitamins. The AOA’s website offers more details at www.aoa.org/patients-and-public/caring-foryour vision/diet-and-nutrition.

5. Practice safe wear and care of contact lenses

More than 40 million Americans use contact lenses to improve vision; while some adhere to the medical guidelines for wearing contacts, many are breaking the rules and putting their vision at risk. Contact lens wearers who don’t follow their optometrist’s recommendations for use and wear can experience symptoms such as blurred or fuzzy vision, red or irritated eyes, pain in and around the eyes or keratitis.

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