While January is the prime time to make changes it can feel a bit overwhelming. If you’ve spent the month contemplating big changes or resolutions but still not progressed them, why not consider making a few small changes to your lifestyle which can still pack a punch?
Take our eyesight for example. It’s our most valued sense and yet new research by specialist eye hospital group, Optegra Eye Health Care, reveals that nearly half (44 per cent) of UK adults are currently concerned about their eyesight, and only eight per cent say they have perfect vision.
Working from home, increased use of screens and socialising online – it seems the global pandemichas affectedevery aspect of life with our vision being one of the many indirect victims of the virus.
The good news is that there areeasy steps we can all make to protect our vision and help ensure we see well for longer. Leading ophthalmic surgeon and Medical Director for Optegra, Mr Amir Hamid, suggests we think about these steps as we journey through 2022:
You are what you eat
We all know that eating a balanced diet containing plenty of fruit and vegetables is good for our overall health and wellbeing, but few people know that maintaining a good diet is also important for our eyes, as vision can benefit from the antioxidants and nutrients contained within certain foods.
A simple rule to follow is the traffic light diet – eating red, amber (well, orange/yellow) and green foods can boost our supply of essential vitamins and minerals, plus it could prevent the early onset of cataracts and other eye conditions.
Examples of foods to add to your shopping list include:
- Red peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and salmon – the antioxidant properties in Vitamin C help prevent or delay the onset of cataract and age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Salmon also contains lots of Omega-3 to help prevent dry eyes.
- Oranges, grapefruit, lemons, and carrots – Beta Carotene is the chemical nutrient that assists with maintaining good vision and citrus fruits are also full of Vitamin C
- Kale, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and avocado – these foods contain lutein and zeaxanthin which reduce the amount of damaging light to the eye and can help reduce or slow the progression of AMD
Research shows that the prevalence of myopia (short-sightedness) is increasing extensively worldwide. The number of people with myopia in 2020 was predicted to be 2.6 billion globally, and is expected to rise up to 4.9 billion by 2050, unless preventive actions and interventions are taken.
Across Europe myopia now affects 45–50% in adults aged 25–29years.
As well as the daily inconvenience of being short sighted, myopia also increases the risk of eye conditions such as cataract, glaucoma, and retinal detachment, all of which can cause irreversible vision loss.
While genetics has an impact, environmental factors are increasingly recognised as contributing to this problem, particularly if children and young people have limited outdoorexposure.
The research states that increasing time outdoors is effective in preventing both the onset of myopia and slowing down its progression in those who are already myopic. In fact, every additional hour of outdoor time per week lead to a reduction in the risk of myopia by 2%.
The chance of becoming myopic is reduced by around one third if time spent outdoors is increased from 0 to 5 h per week to 14 or more hours per week.
Further research states that digital eye strain (DES), also known as computer vision syndrome, can lead to a range of ocular and visual symptoms – from eye strain to headaches, blurred vision and dry eye.
Estimates suggest its prevalence may be 50% or more among computer users.
And if you wear contact lenses too, you are even more at risk – with six or more hours of computer use, 65% of contact lens wearers are more likely to be affected than non-wearers (50%)
Try to limit your screen time and make use of the 20:20:20 rule to give your eyes a break – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds.
A light sleeper?
Did you know that getting plenty of natural light in the day helps the body produce melatonin, needed to induce sleep?
The body produces melatonin naturally, but if you struggle with sleep, you can consider a melatonin supplement, according to John Hopkins sleep expert Luis Buenaver.
He also suggests: “Melatonin levelsrise about two hours before bedtime. Create optimal conditions for it to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed.
“Stop using your computer, smartphone, or tablet—the blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonin’s effects. If you watch television, be sure you’re at least six feet away from the screen. Turn off bright overhead lights too.”
Take a test
No, we don’t mean a lateral flow or PCR! It’s time to reacquaint yourself with your optometrist and book in for an eye test. Optegra’s research shows that 31 per cent of adults have not had an eye health check although they know their sight has deteriorated during the pandemic.
But optometrists and eye surgeons agree this is the single most important step you can take to protect your sight – as many of the issues that can affect vision and eye health across a lifetime can happen very slowly and silently, so everyone should have their eyes checked regularly every two years by a healthcare professional. A lot of these issues can then be spotted early and be treated to prevent long-term adverse effects on vision.
Shade your eyes
Wearing sunglasses is extremely important as eyes are particularly sensitive to ultraviolet light. People are aware of the damage that high UV can cause to skin with sunburn, but it is equally damaging to the eyes.
Keep it clean
One lesson the pandemic has taught us is the importance of washing our hands to avoid spreading germs – in fact 61 per cent of adults now wash their hands much more since the emergence of Covid. This is good news for our eyes!
Poor hygiene can lead to eye infections, but this can be avoided by washing your hands before applying make-up or changing contact lenses. It’s also important not to share eye make-up with friends and to regularly refresh eye products, always throwing them out if they are past their use by date.
So, let’s take care of our eyes. Poor vision stops people living life to the full and this is a time to truly focus on health, be grateful for good health and protect our vision to enhance quality of life every day.
 European Journal of Ophthalmology: Update and guidance on management of myopia. European Society of Ophthalmology in cooperationwith International Myopia Institute. 2021, Vol 31 (3) 853-883
 BMJ Open Ophthalmology: Digital eye strain: prevalence, measurement and amelioration by Amy L Sheppard, James S Wolffsohn. 2018;3:e000146. doi:10.1136/ bmjophth-2018-000146