Your eyes: They work so well, you don't even have to think about them, right? Actually, it's really likely that you could be seeing more clearly when you work, drive, go on a date or read a text in a dark bar.
So, what can we do every day to see and feel better? We teamed up with Dr. Mark Jacquot, one of LensCrafters' top eye doctors, to answer exactly that: do these 5 things, and you'll see better (bye, squinting!), feel better (later, headaches!) and look better, too.
1. Move more…and more often
You know that exercise keeps key organs like your heart and lungs in top shape, but did you know that it may help you see better, too? For real! There's a boatload of research showing your vision can benefit as much as the rest of you from regular workouts.
In one study, people who got moderate exercise on a regular basis were 25 percent less likely to develop glaucoma, a condition that causes damage to your optic nerve, than folks who led more sedentary lives. Another study found a relationship between physical activity and age-related macular degeneration (AMD)—the vision impairment that can develop as we get older.
Though it's not totally clear why staying active seems to protect your vision, new research indicates that it may have something to do with exercise's ability to increase certain proteins in the body that help neurons thrive. In a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience, mice that got exercise retained twice as many neurons in their retinas after being exposed to eye straining light than those that were allowed to be inactive. So: Get (or stay) moving!
2. Tweak your diet
You get it: That leftover Halloween candy is doing nothing for your waistline. Guess what? It's not the best for your eyes, either. To see well, it's crucial to incorporate certain nutrients in your diet. Getting sufficient zinc, zeaxanthin, lutein, omega-3's and vitamins C and E is associated with a lower risk for AMD, cataracts and dry eye, conditions that impair your sight.
Ensure that these eye-friendly vitamins and minerals make it into your system by eating plenty of dark leafy greens, citrus, fatty fish and eggs. Focus on antioxidants, too; in particular, research shows that chocolate and coffee may protect your vision by increasing blood flow and armoring the retinal tissue against damaging oxidative stress.
3. Live by 20-20-20
Sounds simple—and it is. If you're one of the millions of people who get paid to stare at a computer screen all day (or if you look at screens for hours on end just because it's fun), then living by this easy rule can make a huge difference for your poor, overworked eyes.
During the hours in which you're spending time with your device(s), set a timer or keep an eye on the clock. Every 20 minutes, stop looking at the screen and find an object that's 20 feet away; focus your eyes on it for at least 20 seconds. This gives your vision a break and helps prevent eyestrain, which can cause headache, neck pain, blurred vision and other crappy symptoms.
4. Try a nighttime screen ban
Yes, even if you're reading this very article on your phone at 10:30pm. Shut it down and pick us back up tomorrow!
Aim to turn off all screens—computers, phones, tablets, phablets, TVs, etc., etc., etc.—at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. In addition to causing eyestrain, these devices can disrupt your ability to get enough quality shuteye, since the bright light from the screen sends your brain the message to wake up by suppressing the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.
Sleep deprivation can lead to vision woes including eye twitching (the worst!), dryness, itching and—if the deprivation goes on long enough—vision loss caused by a low supply of blood to the optic nerve. Huge bummer? Yes. Preventable? Also yes.
5. Get an annual eye exam
Think this doesn't apply to you because you're young or you have 20/20 vision? Actually, we're talking to you above anyone else! You're in a position to take a preventative approach with your eye health, and the most basic aspect of this plan is to schedule an annual eye exam.
We're not just talking about a basic vision screening. An eye exam (the Lenscrafters AccuExam leads the way here) evaluates your eye health inside and out, enabling the optometrist to pinpoint possible health problems (retinopathy, glaucoma, diabetes—and yes, these happen to young people, too) and to perfect any lens Rx you already have so your eyes aren't subject to strain.
It all adds up to seeing better, feeling better and, frankly—looking better for a long time to come.