Can Diet and Exercise Keep Your Eyes Healthy?
According to the National Eye Institute, staying active can help keep your eyes healthy. A poor diet and a lack of exercise can contribute to poor eyesight and certain diseases like glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration.
Studies have shown that there are links between certain foods and exercises and good eyesight. Foods that contain beneficial nutrients like vitamin C or vitamin E can help to improve your vision, eye health, and prevent age-related eye diseases. Similarly, certain cardiovascular exercises have been shown to improve ocular health too.
How Diet Impacts Eye Health
Diet has an impact on eye health, both directly and indirectly. A poor diet may lead to eye diseases and other issues. For example, the leading cause of vision loss in adults ages 20-74 is diabetic eye disease. Controlling your blood sugar levels and eating a healthy diet can help you manage your symptoms.
Foods rich in vitamin C and E are good for overall eye health. You can generally find these in leafy greens, sweet potatoes, meats, nuts, and beans. On the other hand, foods that have saturated fats and high sugar can be detrimental to your eye health.
Which Vitamins and Nutrients Are Beneficial for Eye Health?
These five vitamins and nutrients have been proven to be advantageous to your overall eye health. They are known to improve eyesight, prevent age-related cataracts, and help protect your eyes.
- Vitamin C (or ascorbic acid): Found in fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that can help contribute to good eye health by providing structure.
- Vitamin E: Found in nuts and sweet potatoes. Some studies have suggested that a diet rich in vitamin E can help prevent age-related cataracts.
- Essential fatty acids: Found in salmon and tuna. Essential fatty acids may assist in preventing vision loss in older adults.
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: Found in leafy greens and eggs, they filter out blue light that can be harmful to your eyes.
- Zinc: Found in red meat, seafood, and eggs, zinc helps to create melanin.
Which Foods Are Good for Eye Health?
These foods are all rich in the right vitamins and nutrients known to improve eye health.
- Fish has essential fatty acids that may help prevent cataracts. Especially fish like tuna, cod, and salmon.
- Broccoli is a great source of vitamin C, and one cup has roughly twice as much as a single lemon.
- Nuts and legumes are rich in essential fatty acids and vitamin E.
- Seeds are rich in vitamin E – especially sunflower seeds!
- Leafy greens are loaded with lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Eggs are another great source of lutein and zeaxanthin.
- Lean red meat, like beef, is full of zinc, which helps reduce the damaging effects of light.
How Exercise Impacts Eye Health
Staying physically active is important for your overall health, but there are also certain exercises that have a beneficial impact on eye health. Cardio can be especially beneficial because it helps keep blood pressure down. People who maintain a moderately physical lifestyle are 25% less likely to develop glaucoma than people who were mostly inactive.
A recent study by Elsevier indicates that there is an association between cardiovascular health and eye health. The study claims that of the 2.2 billion global cases of vision impairment or blindness, over half of them could have been prevented through better cardiovascular health.
While exercise and diet can be helpful in preventing good eye health, neither can reverse cataracts or their symptoms. You may still need eye surgery for cataracts or other eye diseases. But even after surgery, diet and exercise are essential for warding off illnesses and conditions that impact eye health.
What Exercises May Improve Eye Health?
Moderate to regular exercise is known to improve your eyesight, prevent age-related eye diseases, and reduce the risk of other health conditions that can lead to eye disease.
- Walking or running: A brisk walk three times a week can help improve your eye health. Walking and running can help to improve the blood flow to your retina and optic nerve.
- Swimming: Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular exercise and can improve your eye health as well.
- Dancing: This is a fun way to stay in shape and improve your eye health. Dancing exercises like Zumba or aerobics can also help relieve pressure in your eyes.
- Bike riding: Riding a bike regularly can help improve your vision and prevent age-related cataracts and glaucoma.
Eye Exercises for Vision Health
In addition to physical exercise, there are also some eye exercises you can do to improve vision health. These are exercises that will help with eye fatigue and keep your eyes from becoming strained or irritated.
- The 20-20-20 rule: This exercise is great for people who work in front of a computer all day. With the 20-20-20 rule, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes while working at a computer. This is especially helpful in preventing eye fatigue due to blue lights.
- Blink break: When watching TV or staring at a screen, it’s easy to forget to blink. This can cause your eyes to become dry or irritated. Be sure to take blink breaks if you notice these signs.
- Palms for relaxation: Place your palms over your closed eyes until it’s completely black, for about 30 seconds. Don’t put any pressure on your eyes. It helps with eye fatigue and eye relaxation.
- Figure eight: This is when you imagine you are drawing a big number eight on the wall or in the air – anything that is approximately ten feet in front of you. Repeat the drawing a few times, then go in the other direction.
- Roll your eyes: Do eye-rolling exercises where you look right and left without moving your head. Then look up and down several times, too, without moving your head.
- Near and far: This is an exercise for people who wear glasses. Take them off and hold your thumbs in the air – one thumb should be close to your face and one should be further away. For two seconds each, focus on the near thumb, then the far one, then something across the room, and finally something even farther away, and then repeat it again.