Healthy Lifestyle Choices For Eye Health
If you review a list of some of the most common eye conditions leading to vision loss (diabetic retinopathy or cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration), you’ll notice how many of them are directly influenced by the patient's lifestyle choices and overall health.
Rather than looking at the eyes and vision as the only focus, we prefer to make eye health part of a larger picture perspective.
5 Important Lifestyle Choices That Support Optimal Vision
In addition to health conditions that lead to vision loss, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, poor diet, etc, eye health and vision loss are also affected by certain medications required to treat certain health conditions. So, the more our patients live healthy lifestyles, the less likely they are to develop medical conditions that cause eye issues.
Here are five solid lifestyle choices you can make right now to prioritize eye health. And, if you already have some of the above health conditions, all of the tips below support health management to decrease symptoms and reliance on prescription medications.
Switch to an anti-inflammatory diet
Look for diets that prioritize foods and ingredients that reduce inflammation in the body. These are typically referred to as anti-inflammatory diets.
Inflammation causes disease, and it also exacerbates existing health conditions. The large majority of patients who honor the premises of an anti-inflammatory diet report a reduction in overall pain and discomfort, more energy, better moods, and improved sleep habits. In some cases, they can reduce medication doses or stop taking certain medications altogether.
Examples of an anti-inflammatory diet include the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH diet, often recommended for patients with high blood pressure or heart disease. However, you can create your own version by focusing on foods that fight inflammation (colorful veggies and fruits, complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds), while eliminating or drastically reducing the intake of foods that cause inflammation (refined sugars, processed foods, and carbs, junk food).
Exercise for at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week
In addition to boosting confidence, managing weight goals, and promoting better sleep, regular exercise significantly lowers your chances of developing chronic medical conditions. If you’re someone who needs structure and routine, join a gym or start exploring exercise classes in your area.
If not, there are plenty of ways to get exercise without feeling confined or committed to specific calendar dates or times. Examples include:
- Having dance parties with yourself, your kids, or your spouse.
- Using the wide range of exercise videos available 24/7 through YouTube.
- Taking a walk or hike at least a few times per week.
- Walking your dog.
- Taking your dog to the dog park and do laps while s/he’s off-leash.
- Doing your own house cleaning or yard work and stepping the pace up a notch
You can also get some exercise during your daily routine. For instance:
- Park in the furthest parking space instead of the closest, and increase the pace as you walk into work, the store, the bank, etc.
- Taking the stairs no matter what.
- Walk the track or the surrounding blocks of the rec center (instead of scrolling through social media in your car) while waiting for kids at extracurricular activities.
- Stand at your desk and alternate sitting on a yoga ball rather than on traditional chairs.
- Use your lunch break or short breaks to get up and move.
- Take good stretch breaks at your desk every 20 minutes (which also gives your eyes a break from the screen).
Get a good night’s sleep
Sleep is so important. It’s the best chance your body has at restoring itself and repairing “things gone wrong.” Being well-rested also:
- Reduces eye strain
- Minimizes stress levels
- Promotes hormone balance
- Boosts the immune system
- Fights inflammation
Sleep also supports a healthy metabolism, reducing weight gain and supporting heart health.
If you’re someone who struggles to sleep through the night, check in with your general physician to see if there’s an underlying cause. In the meantime, now’s the time to establish a healthy sleep routine.
- Establish consistent sleep and wake times
- Start winding down an hour before bedtime (dim the lights, turn off screens, take a warm shower or bath).
- Use a diffuser with essential oils to promote relaxation and sleep
- Listen to visualizations or Yoga Nidra to help your body relax and drop into a deeper sleep
- Create a bedroom environment that supports sleep
You can read more about how to sleep better from SleepFoundation.org.
Establish a stress management toolkit
Stress is the body’s enemy. We’ve long acknowledged that stress impacts mental and emotional wellbeing, but now we know how much chronic stress leads to disease of the body. It’s not surprising that people with higher stress levels also suffer from other health conditions like high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, and drug/alcohol addiction. The more stressed you are, the more likely you are to have anxiety and depression, insomnia, etc. It’s a snowball.
Instead of letting stress and anxiety rule you, start exploring the wide range of stress management tools available to you (healthy diet, exercise, and sleep habits are already three of them). Then, establish a personalized toolkit of the ones that work best for you.
Some of the most common include:
- Using mindfulness or relaxation apps daily (Insight Timer is a great, free place to start).
- Learning to recognize stress and use breathing techniques to calm the sympathetic nervous system.
- Avoid excessive use of stimulants (reduce caffeine and energy drink intake)
- Spend time in nature
- Keep a gratitude journal or list that you write in each day (at least three per day)
- Seek joy, smiles, and laughter
Speak to your optometrist and physician about supplements for eye health
Eating a healthy diet is the best way to get the vitamins and minerals you need because our bodies assimilate them best from direct food sources. However, there are times when supplementation is warranted. At your next eye exam, ask your optometrist about recommended supplements for eye health, and then review the list with your physician to see if it makes sense to add them to your daily routine.
Some of the most common supplements to support eye health as you age are:
- Certain combination supplements promoted for eye/vision health
- Vitamins B1 (thiamine), C, & E
- Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil capsules)
Family Eye Care Centers Support Holistic Eye Health For All Ages
There is no doubt that healthy lifestyle choices support eye health from childhood through the wisdom years. Eye to Eye Family Vision Care was created to help you and your family create a healthy vision culture yearly. Schedule your next eye exam with us and see what a difference it makes to work with optometrists who take a whole-health approach to eye and vision health.