Maintaining good eye health is important for your overall quality of life. Eyesight can affect everything from reading and performing tasks at work to your ability to effectively communicate with others. If you are experiencing problems with your eyesight, there are ways to improve your vision naturally without lenses or surgery.
While no natural remedies can permanently fix common conditions like nearsightedness, farsightedness, and astigmatism, healthy habits like regular exercise and adopting a more nutritious diet can help improve your eye health.
Role of Healthy Lifestyle
Having trouble with your eyesight is very common. About 12 million people 40 and older in the United States experience vision impairment of some kind, while approximately 6.8 percent of children under 18 are living with a diagnosed eye condition.
Adopting healthy lifestyle changes can be an easy way to address many vision problems. Recent research has shown that people who achieved improved cardiovascular health through a heart-healthy diet and exercise had lower odds of developing ocular diseases like age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Eating a Healthy Diet
To ward off degenerative, potentially blinding conditions like glaucoma, your eyes need vitamins and nutrients. Antioxidant vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and E and the mineral zinc can help stop the progress of age-related macular degeneration, for example.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are nutrients that you can find in green leafy vegetables as well as other food items like eggs. They have been shown to be helpful for macular degeneration and reduce the risk of cataracts. Omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for visual development and for the eye’s retinal functioning.
You can find a lot of these crucial nutrients in common food items. Omega-3 fatty acids, for instance, are in walnuts, cold water fish, and flaxseed. Zinc can be found in shellfish and red meat. Some foods with vitamin A include cantaloupes, carrots, mangos, and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C can be found in brussels sprouts, broccoli, and oranges, while you’ll find vitamin E in almonds, sunflower seeds, as well as peanut butter.
Getting Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is great for your overall health, particularly your eyes. People who engage in moderate exercise on a regular basis were 25% less likely to develop glaucoma in one study.
Another reason exercise is important to eye health is that health conditions that can stem from a lack of physical activity and weight gain can have significant ramifications on your eye health. One example is diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss and blindness in people who have diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is more common in people who have obesity. People who have diabetes therefore should receive a dilated eye exam at least once a year. Beyond diabetic retinopathy, diabetes can make you two to five times more likely to have cataracts and doubles a person’s risk of having open-angle glaucoma.
Incorporating regular walks, riding a bike, or doing light at-home workouts could be ways to be more active and ultimately protect your eyes.
Managing Health Conditions
Some chronic conditions can have an impact on your eye health. If you are managing a chronic condition, you should ask your doctor how it may affect your body as a whole.
Conditions that can affect eye health include:
- Diabetes can cause diabetic retinopathy, which is serious because it can cause vision loss and blindness. Adopting physical activity as part of your normal routine, as well as embracing a diabetes-friendly diet can help manage the condition and avoid related vision problems
- High blood pressure, or hypertension, increases a person’s risk of stroke and heart disease, two of the leading causes of death in the United States. High blood pressure can cause hypertensive retinopathy, which is blood vessel damage that can lead to blurry vision and even blindness. It can also cause choroidopathy, which refers to a fluid buildup under the retina, and optic neuropathy, a blockage of blood flow that can kill nerve cells and lead to vision loss. Keeping your blood pressure in check can help you avoid these eye conditions
- Other chronic conditions that can affect your sight include high cholesterol, asthma, cancer, and even depression. Chronic health conditions tend to be more common in older adults who have some kind of vision impairment than in those with better eye health. Given the gradually aging U.S. population, a great public health burden is expected to present itself as more people manage vision impairments along with chronic conditions
It’s important to be in contact with your eye doctor or primary physician if you notice any changes to your vision, especially if you have one of the chronic conditions that are linked to eye problems.
Visiting Your Eye Doctor
If you find yourself experiencing sudden blurry vision or other changes in your eyesight, you should visit your optometrist or ophthalmologist for an eye exam to assess your vision. They will be able to determine whether it is a symptom of a more serious underlying condition.
As with other aspects of your health, it’s important to ask your eye doctor any questions and bring up concerns over changes you might be experiencing with your vision. Is it difficult to read small print in a book now? Do your eyes hurt? Do you have runny discharge and signs of a condition like pink eye, or conjunctivitis?
In general, adults in their 20s and 30s are recommended to get an eye exam every five to 10 years, which increases to every two to four years for people in their 40s to age 54. People who are 55 to 64 should get their eyes checked every one to three years, while people 65 and up should go every one to two years.
Using Eye Protection
It’s important to do what you can to protect your eyes from harm. Ultraviolet radiation (UV) from the sun can greatly damage our eyes. It’s believed that cataracts may be the result of years of sun damage.
It’s suggested that you find sunglasses that offer 100% UV protection, have lenses that are scratch-resistant, and are free of defects like bubbles that could actually impair your vision while wearing them. They should also have a large frame that covers most of the area around your eyes. You should wear sunglasses whenever you are outside, not just on sunny days. After people receive cataract surgery, they have to wear protective sunglasses as well.
Resting Your Eyes
You should give your eyes a break now and then. Asthenopia, or eye strain, is when your eyes are sore, tired, or achy, especially after looking at a computer or phone screen for too long. This is from using the muscles that control your eye movements for a long time. You can try resting your eyes using the 20-20-20 rule: Every 20 minutes, shift your eyes to look at an object at least 20 feet away, for at least 20 seconds.
You can also rest your eyes by shifting the lighting in your room. Stay 25 inches away from a screen when you do stare at one.
Not only is smoking a dangerous risk factor for lung cancer and other illnesses, it can damage your vision. Smoking can make your eyes particularly scratchy, red, and stinging. It also increases a person’s chance of developing cataracts.
Smokers and former smokers are also more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, while smokers who also have diabetes are at greater risk for diabetic retinopathy. For those who are pregnant, smoking will make your baby five times more likely to develop bacterial meningitis.
Smoking is also linked to a higher risk of glaucoma.
Do Eye Exercises Work?
Eye exercises can alleviate discomfort or irritation, but they won’t cure eye diseases or correct vision.
Optometrists do sometimes recommend vision therapy to develop or sharpen visual skills or change the ways people process visual information. It usually consists of exercises to be conducted during office visits and at home over the course of two months. You may also be given training glasses, prisms, filtered targets, or balance boards to help test and improve your vision.
Different kinds of vision therapy include:
- Orthoptic vision therapy, which is a series of exercises carried out either weekly or over several months. These are to improve binocular function and are instructed at the office and done at home
- Behavioral/perceptual vision therapy are eye exercises to improve visual processing
- Vision therapy for prevention of myopia, or nearsightedness
A Word from Verywell
Improving your eyesight is something you can control through lifestyle habits, such as by eating healthily, exercising regularly, and using proper eye protection when exposed to the sun. It’s important to stay on top of your eye health by getting regular eye exams, and if your vision suddenly changes or worsens, consult your eye doctor and have your eyes checked. This can not only make sure you catch any eye issues early but also give you peace of mind.