HERIB hopes to encourage people to take better care of their eye health during National Eye Health Week (18 – 24 September) with the launch of a guide to healthy vision.
HERIB’s Training Officer Tracy Atkinson says: “Research shows half of all sight loss is avoidable so we want to inspire local residents to make some small lifestyle changes that could make a big difference to their vision and eye health.”
Tracy’s sight saving tips:
1. Eat right for good sight. Most of us have no idea that what we eat can affect how well we see, however, eye-friendly nutrients found in many fruit and vegetables and fatty acids derived from fish, nuts and oils can all help protect your sight.
Vitamins B and E can help protect against cataracts whilst omega-3 fish oils help maintain healthy blood vessels inside the eye – research has shown that eating just one portion of fish a week can reduce your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) – the UK’s leading cause of sight loss by up to 40 per cent.
2. Quit smoking. Smokers have a significantly greater risk of sight loss than non-smokers.
Toxic chemicals in tobacco smoke can damage the delicate surface and the internal structure of the eye. This can lead to an increased risk of many eye conditions including age-related macular degeneration (AMD); nuclear cataracts; thyroid eye disease; dry eye and poor colour vision.
3. Watch your weight. More than half of all British adults are overweight however maintaining a healthy weight helps preserve macula pigment density, which in turn, helps protect the retina against the breakdown of cells and the onset of AMD.
Damage to blood vessels in the eye caused by excess body weight has also been linked to glaucoma.
4. Get fit. Aerobic exercise can help increase oxygen supplies to the optic nerve and lower any pressure that builds up in the eye.
Reducing intraocular ‘eye’ pressure can help control conditions such as glaucoma and ocular hypertension.
5. Cover up. Exposure to UV light increases your risk of developing cataracts and macular degeneration.
According to the World Health Organisation UV damage is the biggest modifiable risk factor of cataract development.
Always wear sunglasses when the UV index rises above three and check your sunglasses filter AT LEAST 99 per cent of UVA and UVB light. Look out for a CE or British Standard or UV 400 mark when choosing your sunglasses as this indicates they provide adequate UV protection.
6. Be screen smart. On average we spend a staggering 35 hours a week staring at a computer screen so it’s no surprise that 90 per cent of us say we experience screen fatigue – tired or irritated eyes, blurred vision, headaches and poor colour perception.
Avoid eye strain by using the 20-20-20 rule, especially if you’re using a computer for long periods of time. Look 20 feet in front of you every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.
And, don’t forget to book an eye test during National Eye Health Week if you haven’t had one in the last two years.