Is There Such a Thing as Longevity for Your Eyes? If So, How Do You Promote It?
Our eye health is at more risk than ever thanks to our constant use of screens, whether on a desktop or smartphone. Photo: AaronAmat/Getty Images
Longevity may be the most important trend we’ve ever experienced. It’s driven by — and in turn, it affects — everything from health to housing, money to technology, lifestyle to social policy. There’s so much to be aware of — and it’s just getting started! Now you can keep up with all the latest developments in this weekly column.
I’ve started to become more interested in longevity as it affects different parts of the body and different functions, as opposed to longevity being a single attribute or quality that applies uniformly to your entire body at the moment.
In other words, you can be aging more rapidly or be “older” with reference to one particular part of your body, and “younger” with reference to some other part: your heart or your brain could be relatively youthful and healthy, while you may have more severe age-related weaknesses in your joints or as regards your mobility. While your overall health will certainly drive longevity if by “longevity” you mean years or lifespan, you may need to take special measures to protect individual organs or systems of functions.
I hadn’t really thought about longevity in relation to eyes and eyesight, but this article woke me up. Although its focus is on nutrition as the remedy, it contains a lot of information that was new to me, and very interesting.
The author points out, correctly, that eye health is at more risk than ever thanks to our constant use of screens, whether on a desktop or smartphone. I have written often about how it’s a myth that “older” people aren’t tech savvy and aren’t engaged online; they very much are, but the flip side is that it can do even more damage to eye health than is true of younger people.
As a result, regular eye exams are critical even if you think you can see just fine. The article quotes guidelines from the American Optometric Association based on age. After age 65, the rule is simple: once a year.
The article also identifies specific nutrients that are particularly critical for your eyes:
- Lutein and zeaxanthin: “These carotenoids are found in high concentrations in the retina (especially the macula), where they help protect the retinal cells from oxidative stress due to light, pollutants, and other environmental stressors.” They’re found in leafy greens and egg yolks.
- Astaxanthin “increases ocular blood flow, clears out waste and toxins and combats oxidative stress.” Best source is red seafood, like lobster, salmon and shrimp.
- Vitamin A “supports the functions of the cornea and conjunctiva — a thin membrane over the eye that provides protection and lubrication.” Good sources of vitamin A include pumpkins, carrots, red peppers, and potatoes.
- Omega-3 fatty acids “promote macular health and help lubricate the eye.” Best sources include fatty fish like anchovies, salmon, tuna, herring and sardines.
- Vitamin C and Vitamin E provide valuable antioxidant protection. Citrus fruits, strawberries and cruciferous veggies like broccoli and cauliflower are good sources.
- Zinc “carries Vitamin A from the liver to the retina, where it helps produce melanin, the pigment that gives your iris its colour and helps protect your vision.” Oysters, red meat and poultry are good sources.
- Copper “protects the ocular nerves and promotes macular health.” Nuts and seeds, as well as shellfish, are good sources.
The article also recommends practicing what it calls “the 20-20-20 rule,” which which sounds like an excellent idea:
For every 20 minutes you spend looking at a screen, you should focus your eyes on something 20 feet away for a total of 20 seconds.
You should even set your alarm to go off every 20 minutes, to remind you take this break.
Sunlight is also a hazard. Apparently spending 15 minutes in the sun without eye protection is equivalent to spending 15 hours in front of a computer. Wear sunglasses!
I think eye health can too easily become a topic that’s undervalued — or neglected altogether. Hopefully this article will stimulate you to examine this more closely — and I’m definitely adding it to my list of subjects to keep checking in on, in the future.
David Cravit is a Vice-President at ZoomerMedia, and Chief Membership Officer of CARP. He is also the author of two books on the “reinvention” of aging. You can check out some of his other writing here.