The Magnificent Seven

By Stephen Cohen, O.D.

Most people cherish their vision more than any other sense. However, like many things in life, we often become most motivated to preserve our vision only when we find ourselves at risk to lose our vision. With deference to the proverbial “an ounce of prevention,” here are seven things you can easily do to help protect your eyes.

  1. UV or Not UV: Ultraviolet radiation can cause both short and long-term damage to our eyes. A simple triad of a hat with a brim, sunglasses, and for those who wear contact lenses, a UV-blocking lens (e.g., Acuvue), can help protect the highly sensitive external and internal ocular structures. Recent research has shown that in addition to UV, “blue light” can be cause long-term damage to our eyes (macular degeneration). Blue light is emitted more heavily by newer fluorescent lighting, hand-held devices, computers, etc. There are now lens coatings that will block UV, glare, and blue light.
  2. Have a Heart: Increasing your heart rate (e.g., three workouts per week) has been shown to reduce eye pressure and can reduce the risk of developing “glaucoma,” also known as the “silent thief of sight.”
  3. Eat Your Greens: Dark, leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach, kale, collard greens) contain carotenoids that may help reduce the risk of cataracts and macular degeneration.
  4. Don’t Rust: Oxidation causes rust on metal surfaces, and in our bodies, causes cellular damage that can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. Berries, oranges and foods high in anti-oxidants can help reduce the damage that can come from environmental factors like UV and pollutants. There are also some very good supplements (e.g., lutein) that will help to protect your eyes.
  5. Have You Seen a Rabbit Wearing Glasses?: Carrots and butternut squash contain beta-carotene, which can help keep eyes healthy.
  6. Time For a ‘Flintstone’ Vitamin: A National Eye Institute study verified that supplements with antioxidants — beta-carotene, copper and zinc — slowed the progression of macular degeneration. Other studies show that B6, B12, and Folic Acid can slow the onset of cataracts.
  7. Gone Fishin’: Omega-3 Fatty Acids (e.g., cold water fish such as halibut, salmon and tuna) can help treat dry eyes, prevent cataracts and protect the retina. For a fish oil supplement, look for one that is in the triglyceride form, which provides higher bioavailability (absorption). [NOTE: Most fish-oil is in an ethyl ester form. Feel free to contact me for recommendations if you have trouble finding one in a triglyceride form.]

We have two eyes that are designed to last a lifetime. Take some simple steps now. Your eyes will thank you later!

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