May is more than just the gateway to warmer weather and blooming flowers—it’s also a time to focus on your eye health. Many of us may believe that as we age, changes in vision are inevitable signs of decline. However, hitting the milestone of 40 doesn’t mean we’re destined for a future of blurry sights and squinting.

In reality, around age 40, adults commonly begin experiencing diminished ocular function, such as difficulty focusing on close objects due to presbyopia—the hardening of the eye’s lens. But here’s the silver lining: while the risk of developing eye diseases increases with age, adopting a healthy lifestyle can significantly reduce the odds of serious vision loss.

To spotlight the linkage between healthy behaviors and optimal eye health, the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) has designated May as Healthy Vision Month. As we embrace the bounties of farm-to-table produce May presents an opportune month for improving one’s diet and other health habits for best ocular health.

Nourish Your Eyes with Good Nutrition

As we age, adopting a plant- and seafood-based diet reduces risk of developing ocular diseases linked to a poor diet high in saturated fats. Foods rich in Vitamins A, C and E, carotenoids, lutein and zexanthin, and selenium are full of antioxidants, which are key to good nutrition and slow cell death (oxidation) that accelerates aging. Diets full of omega-3 fatty acids also slow aging and greatly benefit ocular health through lowering inflammation and cortisol levels and boosting the body’s repair mechanisms.

  • Carotenoids: Pumpkin, grapefruit, carrots, bell peppers, leafy greens, eggs, broccoli, tomatoes
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin: Leafy greens (kale, spinach, and swiss chard), orange-yellow vegetables, broccoli, asparagus, colorful fruits (raspberries, papaya, peaches)
  • Omega-3 fatty acids: Cold-water fatty fish (salmon, mackerel, tuna), walnuts, seeds (flaxseed, chia seeds), plant oils
  • Selenium: Whole or multi-grain pasta and bread, oatmeal, brown rice
  • Vitamin A, C, E: Avocados, bananas, oranges, sunflower seeds
  • Zinc: Legumes (beans and lentils), seeds, seafood, dairy, eggs

Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich diets can potentially slow the development of cataracts through blocking changes in fats and proteins that progressively cloud the eye’s lens. Research also shows that diets high in omega-3 fatty acids alleviate symptoms and reduce risks of developing chronic ocular conditions including dry eye disease (DED), age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and glaucoma.

Incorporating Healthy Habits into Your Lifestyle is Essential

  • Exercise IS Key to Ocular Health! Regular exercise helps individuals prevent obesity that leads to many serious chronic conditions, including eye diseases like diabetic retinopathy, wet macular degeneration and glaucoma.
  • Quit Smoking & Moderate Alcohol Intake. Two modifiable health behaviors – smoking and drinking – are heavily associated with higher risk of developing chronic disease. By mid-life, adults seeking to optimize long-term health should quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke, as well as moderate or quit alcohol intake.
  • Eye Exams Are Chronic Disease Detectives! Eyes reveal how blood vessels, nerves and connective tissues system-wide are functioning. Routine eye exams are critical for ocular health and offer a way to detect a range of neurological, cardiac, cancer and other conditions before symptoms appear.
  • Know Family History of Eye Disease. Discuss family history, ethnicity and other health issues with your ophthalmologist to identify risk factors for developing serious eye diseases.
  • Take Care of Your Eyes When Traveling. Preparedness is key to healthy living and key to travel.
    • DO NOT WAIT until back home to seek medical attention when eye injuries/emergencies occur while traveling. Eye trauma can lead to permanent loss of vision if not treated immediately.
    • Glasses wearers should pack two pairs on every trip. Contact wearers should pack lens cases and two bottles of lens solution in carry-ons for relieving drier eyes while in flight. Remove contacts if sleeping several hours in flight.
  • Wear Protective Eyewear and Sunglasses. Practice eye safety at the workplace and while playing sports or doing activities around the home, such as painting, yard work, and home repairs. Wear sunglasses that block 99 percent-100 percent of ultraviolet A (UVA) and ultraviolet B (UVB) radiation.

Remember, its progress, not perfection, that counts. By taking action to preserve your eye health, such as scheduling a yearly comprehensive eye exam after the age of 40, you’re investing in a future with clearer, brighter vision.

Our Focus Is On You!

When you come to us as a patient at Barth Vision & Optical, we will begin your treatment with a comprehensive eye exam that will employ the most advanced, state-of-the-art diagnostic equipment available. This May, make healthy eyes a priority and set your sights on a lifetime of good vision.