10 tips for healthy eyes

Modern lifestyle habits can lead to poor vision, chronic eyestrain, and even eye disease. Try these suggestions and help your eyes see better and feel better.

You brush your teeth at least twice a day and you never miss those biannual cleanings. Your dentist has finally convinced you that flossing is a good idea. Dental hygiene has become a part of the standard health regime, but what about visual hygiene?

No one is recommending that you rinse your eyes before you go to sleep, but it is important to realize that our eyes need daily attention just as our teeth and gums do. A combination of eye exercises, proper nutrition, and healthy lifestyle habits can help your eyes feel better and see better and preserve your sight far into the future.

Biologically, we were not designed to do all of the close work that defines much of the modern way of life. Reading, writing, texting, and time spent at the computer all contribute to eyestrain and potentially to the development of eye disease.

One condition that is becoming increasingly common as we rely on our eyes to do so much near work is myopia (also known as nearsightedness). In just two decades the proportion of U.S. citizens who are nearsighted has increased by 11 per cent to include about 36 per cent of the population. There’s a pervasive myth out there that says that “bad vision” and a perpetual need for increasingly stronger glasses is inevitable. And yet, that huge spike in the number of myopic people indicates that there are other factors at work here besides genetics or coincidence. Living in a keyboard driven, handheld world in which we always have a screen at arm’s length is definitely responsible for the decline in our collective vision health. (For more specific information on computer eyestrain and how to treat it naturally, go here.)

10 tips for healthy eyes

The bad news is that modern life is tough on the eyes. The good news is that we can make a few small changes that will alleviate some of that stress. Incorporate these ten tips for healthy eyes into your daily routine and set your sights on true visual fitness:

R & R for the eyes. Look up from your work frequently. Build break time into your schedule: rest your eyes and let them wander elsewhere for 2 minutes for every 15 minutes, a 5 minutes for every 30 minutes, or 10 minutes for every hour of close work that you do.

Skip the mood lighting. Your illumination source for detailed tasks should be three times brighter than that of the rest of the space. Do not read under a single lamp in a dark room.

Mind your posture. Keep your chest up, your shoulders back, and your weight over your seat so that both eyes remain level.

Mind the gap. Keep an eye-to-activity distance that is equal to the distance between your middle knuckles and your elbow (that’s about 14-16 inches for most adults).

Become a conscious lounger. Sit upright while reading in bed. Avoid lying on your back, side, or stomach when engaged in any sort of close work. This goes for television watching as well.

It’s not what you write, it’s how you write. Hold your pen or pencil an inch from the tip so you can see what you are writing and guide your instrument without tilting your head to the side.

Step away from the television. TV watching does little to develop visual skills, so viewing should be limited a few hours a day, if any. When you do watch, be sure that your distance from the screen is at least seven times the width of the screen. That means if you have a 60” flat screen you should be sitting somewhere between the three-point line and half court to avoid eyestrain.

Get outside and play. Spend time out in nature engaged in activities that encourage you to look at things far in the distance. Become aware of your world as you walk, scanning but never staring at all that surrounds you.

Your eyes are what you eat. A diet rich in fruits and vegetables (particularly leafy greens) and additional supplementation of lutein, bilberry, and vitamin A will help fight the free radicals that cause many eye diseases including macular degeneration and cataracts.

Bring on the blink and breathe breaks. When we stare without blinking, like when we are reading or working on the computer, we increase our chances of developing dry eyes and eyestrain. Staring can also lead to refractory problems, which can inhibit the eyes’ ability to focus. This exercise will help moisten the eyes as well as strengthen and develop flexibility of the eye muscles and, in turn, can help improve the eyesight.

• Blink your eyes rapidly six times.

• Then, allow few seconds between blinks.

• Next, shut your eyes for two whole breaths, inhaling and exhaling deeply and slowly.

• Repeat four times.

Photo ©iStockphoto.com/ Jacob Wackerhausen

Marc Grossman, Doctor of Optometry and Licensed Acupuncturist and co-founder of Natural Eye Care, Inc. , has authored five books on natural eye care (titles include: Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision and Greater Vision: A Pathway to Physical, Emotional and Spiritual Transformation ) and lectures nationally and internationally on holistic eye health. Learn more about his work at www.NaturalEyeCare.com.