Summer is here, which means that rosé is back and that we need to be super conscious of the sun. When reflecting on the hazards of the sun, we go to straight to sunburns, dry skin, and melanoma, but there are many other areas of our health that the sun can affect; our eyes being one of them. That’s why June and July are used to recognize Cataracts Awareness Month and UV Awareness Month. It's important to be mindful of both, particularly as we age.
So many internal and external factors affect our overall eye health, from our diet to our daily screen time. Throw in the summer sun, and we have yet another significant factor to be aware of in the coming months. So, let’s take a deep dive into the matter and look at five simple ways to protect our eyes this summer.
Arguably the most proactive step in maintaining healthy vision throughout summer is attending your regular eye exams. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you should especially have an annual appointment scheduled to check and make sure your prescription is up to date.
Other than updating your prescription, if you're awomen over 40 you should regularly have tests done at your eye exam to monitor the all-around health of your eyes. Does the eye puff test ring any bells? While it’s rarely something to look forward to, these tests can be vital in checking for serious eye conditions like glaucoma.
Thought sunglasses were just a fashion statement? Wrong. Aside from keeping annual checkups with your optometrist, the next simple way to protect your eyes is by wearing sunglasses. Sunglasses are a funny thing; you can either buy a $9 pair from the drugstore or spend hundreds on a designer pair and nobody knows the wiser. But what should you be looking for in a pair of sunglasses exactly?
The answer is protection; specifically, UV protection. This time of year, the sun is taking no mercy on unprotected skin or eyes. The same as you would use SPF to protect your skin from sunburn, you should be wearing 100% UV-blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes. UV rays have both short-term and long-term effects on our eyes, from overactive tearing and itchiness to an increased risk of cataracts and macular degeneration. With summer right around the corner, it’s imperative to keep eyes protected from the blazing sun rays. That said, sunglasses don’t have to cost a lot of money to provide adequate eye protection. Less expensive pairs marked as 100 percent UV-blocking can be just as effective as pricier options.
Take care of both your eye health and physical health as a whole with a balanced diet. Remember being told to eat carrots to keep your eyes healthy? This wasn’t just a ploy to get you to eat your veggies; it’s actually true. Beta-carotene is vital to our bodies' process in producing Vitamin A, which promotes healthy vision. Since the human body cannot manufacture Vitamin A on its own, we need to incorporate it into our diet. Other beta-carotene rich foods with the signature orange color include:
Other leafy green vegetables like spinach, broccoli and lettuce are also among the top beta-carotene rich foods. Of course, this doesn’t mean carrots and sweet potatoes are going to give you 20/20 vision. But, choosing healthier options is a step towards understanding the value of what you put into your body. The foods we eat directly affect our digestion, metabolism, and even sleep habits. A heartier lifestyle can start with something as simple as a balanced diet.
In the same way our diet affects our sleep habits, our sleep habits go on to impact other areas of mental and physical health. As one of the most underrated yet vital parts of our routine, sleep is essential to every bodily function. When you lay your head down to rest, you’re allowing your brain to recharge and make repairs until you wake up the next morning. In fact, without getting adequate sleep, you increase your risk of health problems from heart disease to depression.
Aside from being better for our overall health, eyes specifically depend on a healthy sleep schedule. Remember those all-nighters you used to pull in college? There just wasn’t enough time in the day to complete that project or paper, so you were forced to work through the night. While you may not remember it, you likely suffered from dry, itchy, or bloodshot eyes the next day. Why? The problem is, eyes rely on sleep for rest and repair in preparation for the next day’s functions. With very little or no sleep, eyes become strained while they work overtime. This can result in minor eye infections, increased sensitivity, or long-term issues like glaucoma.
Do you remember the good ol’ days when we actually walked up to someone’s front door to see them? Or wrote a letter and anxiously waited for a response? For many of us, it may be hard to remember a time without cell phones and technology. Truth is, we depend on these devices for practically everything from morning alarms to good night text messages. Although we sometimes feel like we can’t live without our cellphones and laptops, the increased screen time is not doing our eyes any favors.
As you can imagine, staring at a backlit screen all day everyday isn’t ideal for our eye health. Digital screens emit blue light, which can be harmful in large amounts without protection or frequent breaks. For an easy fix, you can look at blue light screen protectors for your devices, which filter the blue light before it even leaves the screen. Besides blue light filtering technology, you can also use this time away from digital screens as an excuse to get outside. Take a walk, sit by the pool (wearing SPF of course), and enjoy the warm weather and sunshine.
Taking care of eye health doesn’t have to be a chore if you do it right. Soak up the Vitamin D this summer without it taking a negative toll on your body. Make sure you get to the eye doctor, be mindful of your diet and screen time, wear eye protection outside, and enjoy your summer!
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