Of course you're aware that smoking increases your risk of lung cancer and heart disease, but did you know it's terrible for your eye health, too? Smoking tobacco doubles your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, an incurable disease that leads to progressive blindness. It has also been directly linked to cataracts, which cause the lens of your eye to transform from clear to opaque, limiting your vision.
Quitting smoking is not easy, but it's an essential step if you want to retain your vision. Perhaps your eye health is the motivation you need to finally stop, once and for all! If you've tried quitting before and failed, try a different method this time. Consider talking to your doctor about prescription medications to curb cravings, or start attending support group meetings.
Eat More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Here's yet another lifestyle change that is good for your heart and your eyes: eating more omega-3 fatty acids. This type of fatty acid helps fight against inflammation throughout the body. Since inflammation is a key element in eye diseases such as dry eye syndrome, macular degeneration and glaucoma, increasing your intake of omega-3 fatty acids is a good preventative measure.
Eating more omega-3s may be easier than you think. Just a couple of servings of cold-water fish per week will greatly boost your intake, and tossing some flax and chia seeds into salads, smoothies and baked goods works well, too. You may also want to consider omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as fish oil capsules, which are readily available at pharmacies.
Buy Better Sunglasses
It's no secret that wearing sunglasses is important for eye health, but they do have to be the right sunglasses. Many low-end sunglasses do not block 100 percent of UV rays, the most harmful component of sunlight. UV exposure increases your risk of cataracts and also ocular melanoma, a cancer affecting the pigment-producing cells in your eyes.
Ask your optician to recommend a good pair of sunglasses that blocks 100 percent of UV rays and that also fit your face comfortably. If you have comfortable, stylish sunglasses, you're more likely to remember to wear them. Consider buying two pairs so you can leave a spare at work or in your car.
Get More Exercise
Research has found that staying active may reduce your risk of the big three age-related eye diseases: glaucoma, cataracts and macular degeneration. Exercise helps promote a healthy blood pressure, which guards against glaucoma. It also helps ward off diabetes, a risk factor for these conditions.
You don't have to become a marathon runner or competitive cyclist in order to see the benefits of increased activity. Moderate exercise three to five times per week is enough. Working out does not have to mean hitting the gym! Activities like hiking, cycling, gardening and dancing all get your heart pumping without leaving you feeling bored. Try a few different activities until you discover one you love; then work on making it part of your regular routine.
If you focus on quitting smoking, getting more exercise, eating more omega-3s and wearing good-quality sunglasses, you'll have a greater chance at lasting eye health. And if you've been putting off your regular eye exam, make one today by contacting Beeve Vision Care Center.