Nothing could be more precious than our eyesight, yet evidence shows that 50 per cent of sight loss could be avoided through improved eye care and early detection of problems when they do occur. Studies suggest that exposure to high levels of sunlight throughout your life may damage the retina, which is why it’s always good to wear your shades when it’s bright (they’re not just a fashion statement!). Check that any sunglasses you wear carry the CE mark and the British Standard BS EN 1836:2005, which ensures a safe level of ultraviolet protection.
Smokers are three times more likely to develop developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a condition that affects the retina and causes loss of central vision macular degeneration – the most common cause of age-related eyesight loss. But quitting can really turn things around, with ex-smokers having only a slightly increased risk compared with life-long non-smokers.
While we can never protect ourselves completely, there’s growing evidence that diet also plays a really important part in decreasing your risk of developing eye disease. Here, based on the latest research, are the dietary tips we recommend to keep those peepers healthy.
Research suggests obesity increases the risk of developing AMD. If you’re unfortunate enough to develop this condition, being a healthy weight will tend to reduce the severity of the disease and slow the rate of deterioration.
Go easy on the salt
A Mediterranean-style diet isn’t just good for weight control. With plenty of potassium-rich fruit and veg and very little processed food that’s high in salt, this type of diet helps lower blood pressure, which will also help decrease your risk of both cataracts and macular degeneration.
Eat your greens
If you love eating your greens, you’re also protecting your eyes. It’s thought the dietary antioxidants, lutein and zeaxanthin, they contain work to protect the back of the eye against UV damage from the sun. The best sources by far are curly kale and spinach, which the Macular Society recommends we try to eat two to four times per week. If you’re not a lover of kale, try it stir-fried with a little garlic and ginger and topped with some toasted flaked almonds – it’s delicious!
Fill up on oily fish
A couple of weekly portions of oily fish such as salmon or mackerel is good for so many things and protecting your eyes can be added to this list. Studies show the omega 3 fat DHA is an important structural component of photoreceptors in the eye, playing a critical role in normal retinal function.
Try a supplement
Results from the American Eye Institute-funded AREDS2 (age related eye diseases study) found that combinations of zinc, vitamin C, vitamin E and antioxidants helped reduce the risk of developing advanced macular degeneration. The research also showed that supplementation with lutein and zeaxanthin appeared to be associated with a 32 per cent reduction in cataract surgery for those with the lowest dietary levels. If you’re not eating a balanced diet, an eye-health supplement, particularly one that contains lutein and zeaxanthin is worth thinking about, particularly if there’s a history of eye disease in your family.