10 Ways to Protect Your Eyes

Take good care of your eyes now, and you'll see clearly for a long time to come.Take good care of your eyes now, and you'll see clearly for a long time to come.Your eyes can process 36,000 bits of information every hour. That's why it's so important to protect your vision with good eye-health habits. If you want to see clearly for years to come, follow these 10 steps to prevent vision problems.

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1. Know Your Family's Eye Health History
Does glaucoma run in your family? Does anyone have cataracts? Many eye problems are hereditary. If you know you have a high risk for developing an eye disease or eye condition, you can take steps to prevent it.

2. Schedule an Eye Exam
It's important to have an eye exam to make sure your eyes are healthy and seeing their best. A visual acuity test will help your optometrist determine if you need eyeglasses or contact lenses for vision correction. A dilated-eye exam should also be done to check your eyes for any damage or signs of disease, such as glaucoma, cataracts, or age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

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3. Eat Right to Nourish Your Eyes
It's true that beta carotene in carrots is good for your eyes, but so are ample amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids. They all help reduce your risk of AMD, a common eye disease that can lead to blindness. Fill up on oranges, strawberries, and leafy greens for vitamin C. Add turkey and chicken for zinc. Eat almonds and peanut butter for vitamin E, and salmon, tuna, or halibut for omega-3s.

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4. Wear Your Sunglasses
Sunglasses help prevent cataracts and crow's feet. Ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage your eyes in any season, and in morning and late afternoon, too -- not just midday. Choose sunglasses with large lenses -- or even wraparound lenses -- that offer 99% to 100% UVA and UVB radiation protection.

5. Exercise for Better Vision
Vigorous exercise, such as running, can protect your eyes from cataracts and AMD. Not a runner? Any workout that pumps up your cardio fitness, such as biking, roller skating, swimming, or lifting weights, can protect your eyesight by reducing inflammation in your body that can negatively impact your eyes.

6. Take Care of Contact Lenses to Prevent Eye Infections
Always wash your hands thoroughly before handling contacts, and follow the instructions for cleaning, disinfecting, and storing them to reduce your risk of eye infections. Also, wear and replace contact lenses as recommended by your eye doctor.

7. Treat Dry, Irritated Eyes
Are your eyes itchy, scratchy, burning, or dry? As you age, normal tear production decreases, which can lead to dry eyes. To prevent dry eyes, eat more foods with vitamin A (like cantaloupe, carrots, and mangoes), use a humidifier to moisten dry air, and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes on bright or windy days. Some prescription and over-the-counter meds, such as antihistamines and pain relievers, can reduce your eyes' ability to create natural tears, so ask your doc for alternatives.

8. Prevent Computer Eyestrain
Most of us forget to blink and take breaks as often as we should while working on the computer or watching TV, which can make eyes tired and dry. It might even give you a headache. Follow the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eyestrain: Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.

9. Check Your Eyes for Signs of Other Health Problems
If your optometrist notices that blood vessels in your eyes look stiff, form kinks or loops, or look bronze or gray instead of red, it could be a sign of high blood pressure or diabetes, which can harm your eyesight. Blocked blood vessels or inflammation in your eyes may signal autoimmune disease that can cause vision problems, pain, sensitivity to light, and red, itchy eyes.

10. Use Protection to Prevent Eye Injuries
Whether playing sports or doing chores around the house, protect your eyes to reduce your chance of eye injury. If you normally wear eyeglasses while playing tennis or baseball, be sure your frames are made of polycarbonate -- a super-strong plastic. When using household cleaning products, wear safety goggles to shield your eyes from chemical splashes, turn the spray nozzle away from you, and wash your hands thoroughly after using cleaning chemicals.

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