If you’ve got good vision, it’s easy to be complacent about your eye health. But if you don’t care for your eyes, you may not see so well forever.
We spoke to Dr Shanel Sharma, eye specialist and surgeon from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists, to find out the most common mistakes people make when it comes to eye health, and how you can easily amend your ways.
You don’t eat enough oily fish
Eating fish like salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel or tuna at least two times a week is important for good eye health.
“Eating oily fish is protective against macular degeneration, which is the leading cause of blindness in older Australians,” Dr Sharma says.
“If you eat them two or three times a week, you will have greater protection to your eyes than somebody who doesn’t eat oily fish.”
You’re not snacking on nuts
Just a handful of almonds, macadamias, cashews or Brazil nuts a week is all it takes to further boost your eye health.
“Oily nuts are protective against macular degeneration as well,” Dr Sharma says.
“Eating leafy green vegetables and fresh fruit daily is also important.”
You’re having too much salt and sugar
We often think of reducing our intake of salt and sugar for heart health or weight loss, but Dr Sharma says that with diabetic eye disease being a leading cause of blindness, it’s crucial we monitor our junk food intake for our vision as much as for other health benefits.
“High cholesterol and high blood pressure are risk factors for diabetic eye diseases and macular degeneration so keeping a low salt intake and low sugar intake are important,” Dr Sharma says.
You don’t blink enough
It’s easy to consider blinking an automatic thing that doesn’t require our attention, however, if you go too long between blinks you could end up with a nasty case of dry eyes.
That’s not to say we all have to start obsessively blinking ― the tip here is about monitoring our screen time because we can get caught in a staring daze.
“Normally you would blink 12-15 times per minute so your eyes stay moist, but when staring we only blink two to three times per minute. ” Dr Sharma explains.
“When you stare at phones, iPads and TVs you often don’t blink, and if you don’t get that moisture, you can get eye pain, watering eyes, headaches and blurry vision ― which can sometimes be mistaken for more sinister causes, such as brain tumours.”
You’re wearing crap sunglasses
Sunglasses are much more than a fashion statement, and if you don’t have a quality pair, you could be letting damaging UV light into your eyes.
That’s because sunglasses that don’t filter UV light could actually be worse for our eyes than wearing no sunglasses ― because the tinted glass reduces the glare so we open our eyes wider and let more cancer-causing UV light in.
“We should wear wrap-around protective sunglasses that are back surface-coated and polarised from sunrise to sunset,” Dr Sharma says.
“It’s particularly important for children because maximum UV penetration through the eye to the macular is between zero and two years of age. You wouldn’t imagine putting a child outside without sunblock on so why would you imagine putting them outside without sunglasses on?”