What to do to take care of your eyes—and what not to do

Susannah Hickling

What are the enemies of healthy eyes and what are the pals that can protect them from damage?

Bright colours | Friend

Brightly coloured fruit and veg, that is. Corn, orange peppers, oranges and carrots all contain lutein, widely considered to be the “eye vitamin.” It’s so named because it may help guard against problems such as cataracts and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the most common cause of visual impairment.

 

One too many | Foe

Yes, along with all the other problems alcohol causes, it’s bad for your eyes too. The jury’s still out as to whether booze can be the cause of cataracts, glaucoma and AMD, but excessive alcohol consumption has been linked to progressive optic neuropathy. This leads to visual impairment and loss of colour vision. Aim to stick within the government’s recommended limit of 14 units per week for men and women.

 

Eating your greens | Friend

Can you detect a theme here? The truth is that you should not only be eating brightly coloured produce or finishing up your green leafy veg, such as kale and spinach, but you should be embracing an all-round healthy diet. It should include oily fish, such as salmon, tuna and mackerel, and eggs, which may help protect against cataracts.

 

Smoking | Foe

It seems the old cancer sticks don’t just give you cancer. They’re also the biggest risk factor for AMD and could be the cause of cataracts too. If giving up is hard, consider getting support from your local NHS stop smoking service.

 

Keeping fit | Friend

Older people, in particular, are more at risk of high blood pressure, hardening or narrowing of the arteries, and Type 2 diabetes, all of which can lead to loss of vision. Hardening of the arteries can block the blood supply to the eye and high blood pressure can cause leakage and bleeding in the blood vessels of the eye. People with diabetes may have retinopathy. The good news is that regular exercise can help to prevent these threats to your eyesight.

 

Autumn sunshine | Foe

Sound lovely, don’t they, those slanting golden rays? Sadly, they’re not good for your eyes. In fact, you might be surprised to learn that when the sun is lower in the sky, as it is at the autumn equinox, it poses a greater hazard to your vision than in summer and may put you at a greater risk of AMD and cataracts. In summer, when the sun is high in the sky, your brow acts as a sunshade and protects your peepers from too much UV light. A good rule of thumb is to wear sunglasses (make sure they carry the CE mark) and a hat when your shadow is shorter than you.

 

Going to the optician | Friend

An eye test at least every two years will not only show whether you need glasses or a new prescription, but will also check your eye health. Your optometrist can even spot health conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, tumours and rheumatoid arthritis.