Tired of squinting to read road signs? Moving objects away to help you focus and constantly fumbling for your reading glasses? You’re not alone: Researchers from the National Institutes of Health report the number of women struggling with vision problems has shot up by 66 percent since 1971. And 75 percent of us worry that we’re going to need increasingly stronger vision correction over the years.
Thankfully, experts say you can put those worries to rest! “You can have healthy eyes at any age,” assures ophthalmologist Robert Abel Jr., MD, author of The Eye Care Revolution. And you don’t have to avoid screens to do so: Researchers at New York City’s Weill Cornell Medical Center say these activities don’t lead to lasting vision troubles. Says Dr. Abel, “With simple lifestyle changes, you can prevent and even reverse many vision problems.” Ready to give your eyes the TLC they deserve? Read on for study backed strategies to keep your vision clear for decades.
Keep vision sharp with this thumb trick.
Trouble focusing and blurred vision plague 48 percent of us on a weekly basis, UCLA researchers report. The under lying trigger? Hours spent focusing on close objects — like a book, laptop or knitting project. “Like other muscles, the muscles in your eyes need exercise and rest to stay strong,” says optometrist Marc Grossman, OD, co-author of Natural Eye Care: Your Guide to Healthy Vision & Healing.
Fortunately, a simple exercise can erase vision-sapping eyestrain, often immediately, say researchers at England’s Aston University. To do: Hold your thumb six inches from your eyes and focus on it while you take a deep breath. Next, shift your focus to an object at least 10 feet away and take another deep breath. Continue alternating between gazing at your thumb and the distant object for one minute. Repeat every half hour when you’re doing close-up work.
Improve night vision with leafy greens.
Spinach, kale and other leafies are packed with lutein — a yellowish pigment that soaks into eye tissues and acts like a natural sunscreen, report Yale University researchers. “The higher your lutein intake, the lower your risk of vision loss, cataracts and macular degeneration,” says Dr. Abel.
And lutein can improve your nighttime vision too: Studies show eating a lutein-rich diet improves the ability to see at dusk, read in dimly lit rooms, and adjust to bright light or sudden darkness quickly, making night driving easier and safer. Not a fan of greens? University of Massachusetts researchers say enjoying 12 eggs a week offers a comparable lutein boost.
Keeps eyes young with this healing duo.
At least eight studies suggest that supplementing with 2,000 mg. of fish oil and 1,000 mg. of vitamin C daily protects against cataracts, macular degeneration and vision loss. Another impressive perk: Japanese researchers say a daily dose of these nutrients reduces your risk of blurry vision, eye strain and eye fatigue by 25 percent.
“The healing fats in fish oil reduce inflammation in your eyes,” explains Dr. Grossman. “And vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that scavenges free radicals before they can prematurely age the lens of the eye.” For best results, take 500 mg. of vitamin C twice daily and take fish oil once daily with meals since dietary fats improve its absorption.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.