These ten great and surprising tips will keep your eyes in check. Most of us take our eyesight for granted, but imagine if you couldn't gaze at your family or even navigate your way safely round the kitchen. There is much you can do to look after your eyes. For example, a well-balanced diet can protect against age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in older people.

Smell your eye make-up

You have probably never thought about bacteria lurking in your mascara and other eye cosmetics – but they love it and can end up causing eye infections. Health experts suggest that you should discard your make-up every three months. If you baulk at throwing away unfinished (and often pricey) cosmetics four times a year, an alternative way to stay safe – according to the authoritative Mayo Clinic in the USA – is to treat your cosmetics in the same way as food and smell them before use. If it has gone off, mascara will smell just as bad as fish does when it's not fresh.

 

Eat sunshine-coloured foods

Make sure your dinner plate contains a splash of yellow or orange. Egg yolks and a wide range of orange or yellow vegetables, including carrots and squash, are good sources of zeaxanthin and lutein. These vital nutrients help protect against age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the most common cause of blindness in older people. Researchers at the University of Wisconsin, USA, have reported that people in their 50s who regularly eat food containing the yellow pigment that gives egg yolks their bright colour are less likely to develop AMD. Dark green vegetables, including kale, cabbage, spring greens, spinach, Romaine lettuce, broccoli and courgettes, have the same beneficial effect.

 

Send your children outside

The indoor lifestyle led by many families in the West could have a surprisingly negative effect on children's eyesight, leading to an increased risk of myopia (short sight). Scientists at Cambridge University in the UK, who carried out a review of research in this area, found that children today are spending too little time outside, where the light is natural and the horizons are further away. Making more use of distance vision and increased exposure to ultraviolet light are the principal health gains of having regular time playing outside, the scientists report in the US journal Ophthalmology. Studies show that every hour children regularly spend outside reduces their risk of short-sightedness by 2 per cent.

 

Get tested for glaucoma

Ask your optometrist about having a test for this serious eye condition. The disease, a leading cause of blindness, is caused by a rise in pressure inside the eye. Early diagnosis can save your vision because prescription eye drops can prevent the otherwise inevitable damage to the optic nerve. The International Glaucoma Association recommends testing at least every two years if you are:

  • Over 40
  • Closely related to someone with glaucoma
  • Short sighted
  • Diabetic
  • Of African-Caribbean origin.

 

Take a break

If you work long hours in front of a screen in artificial light, you are increasing your chances of becoming short sighted, according to Californian eye specialists. Take regular short breaks away from the screen and walk around the office to exercise your eyes as well as your legs. If possible, alternate your work duties so you reduce the length of periods spent in front of a screen. And make a determined effort to get out of the office at lunchtime.

 

Wear eye protection

You may wear goggles to protect your eyes from chlorine in the swimming pool – but what about other occasions when your eyes may be at risk? If splinters, dust and other small particles get into your eye, there is a risk of corneal abrasions that could threaten your vision. The American Academy of Ophthalmology estimates that 90 per cent of eye injuries could be avoided by wearing protective eyewear. Be sure to safeguard your eyes while cycling, doing DIY jobs (particularly sanding and sawing) and even gardening (bamboo canes, twigs and thorns can pose a serious hazard to your eyes).

 

Walk for 40 minutes

If you have glaucoma or are in a high-risk group – for example, if a close member of your family has the disease – being physically fit can reduce symptoms. Research over 20 years has shown that people with glaucoma who walked briskly for 40 minutes four times a week reduced their intraocular pressure enough for them to stop taking medication for the condition.

 

Keep clear of smoke

Smoking is as bad for your eyesight as it is for the rest of your body. Research showing a link between age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and smoking is now as robust as that between smoking and lung cancer – with evidence that cigarette smokers are up to four times more likely to be blinded by AMD compared to non-smokers. What's more, this risk continues for up to ten years after smoking cessation.

 

Cool your feet

Make sure that the vents that deliver cool air into your car are aimed at your feet rather than at eye level. Specialists warn that the dry air from car air-conditioning systems sucks moisture out of your eyes, which can cause discomfort and put you at greater risk of eye infections and even ulcers. The same goes for the air conditioning in planes, trains, coaches – and even in offices. Check where you are sitting and adjust the vents if you can.

 

Eat fish for moist eyes

Scientific research has found that eating oily fish helps to prevent dry eye syndrome. This irritating condition, which is common in older people, occurs when the eyes do not produce enough tears or when the tears evaporate too quickly. The result is itchy, red eyes that can be slightly painful. Harvard researchers in the USA, who studied the diets of thousands of women, found that those who ate the least amount of oily fish – and therefore had the lowest intake of omega-3 fatty acids – had the highest risk of dry eye syndrome. If you're not keen on eating oily fish, you could choose supplements, which work as well as having fresh fish, according to the researchers.

Supplements

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