To mark World Sight Day, HuffPost UK Lifestyle set out to find the top ways to prevent sight loss.
According to Ian Grierson, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Liverpool, having a healthy diet is key to caring for your eyes. He recommends getting plenty of Omega-3 fatty acids, carotenoids and vitamins C, E and A.
- Omega-3 fatty acids care for the retina and can be found in oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel and sardines
- Vitamins C, E and A have antioxidant properties that help protect the eye. These can be found in leafy greens such as spinach and leafy cabbage
- Carotenoids act as antioxidants protecting the tissue of the eyes by absorbing harmful blue light. They can be found in tomatoes and carrots
“While research suggests that vitamins A, C, E and zinc can help keep the eye healthy, it is carotenoids, the pigments that occur naturally in plants and algae, which offer the most precise way of targeting the damage that causes sight loss," Dr Grierson said in a statement.
"In particular, the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin act directly to absorb the damaging blue and near-ultraviolet light, in order to protect the macula. Any yellow or orange plants or vegetables contain them. They are also abundant in green vegetables such as kale and spinach."
See below for more foods that are good for your eyes...
Kale, Spinach And Collards
Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that protect and maintain healthy cells -- and they're abundant in these dark, leafy greens, Caplan explains. She quotes <a href="http://www.aoa.org/" target="_hplink">The American Optometric Association,</a> which has reportedly said they act like "internal sunglasses" that can "filter harmful blue waves." Another bonus? "These [greens] are also high in vitamin A, which is good for the eyes," Caplan said.
Zinc deficiency has been linked to impaired vision and poor night vision, as well as cloudy cataracts, Caplan says. But getting plenty of of the nutrient can work wonders, slowing the progression of age-related macular degeneration, which is <a href="http://www.nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts.asp#1" target="_hplink">a common condition in adults age 50</a> and older. Oysters are a great source of zinc, Caplan explains. And if they're not exactly your thing, she suggests trying lobster, salmon, beef or milk instead.
Apricots are a good source of beta carotene and lycopene, both carotenoids that can help promote good vision, explains Elisa Zied, an author and registered dietitian. Indeed, the <a href="http://www.maculardegenerationassociation.org/resources/information.aspx?post=98fede9b-f533-4530-9c69-a7d159063010" target="_hplink">Macular Degeneration Association explains</a> that the body converts beta carotene into vitamin A, which resists damage to cells and tissues, including the eye lens. "Continued oxidative stress may result in the development of cataracts or damage the blood supply to the eyes and lead to macular degeneration," the <a href="http://www.maculardegenerationassociation.org/resources/information.aspx?post=98fede9b-f533-4530-9c69-a7d159063010" target="_hplink">organization says.</a>
"It's prudent for people to follow current Dietary Guidelines for Americans, consuming at least three-and-a-half or four cups of produce each day," Zied says. And she recommends that people pay particular attention to eating plenty of fruits and veggies that are rich in vitamins C and A -- which is why sweet potatoes are high on her eye-health list. In fact, <a href="http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2667/2" target="_hplink">a one-cup serving of sweet potato</a> has more than the full daily requirement for vitamin A. And yes, there is another orange, vitamin A-rich option that's more commonly associated with protecting our peepers: Zied also recommends good ol' carrots.
Eggs are another food that's relatively high in zinc, Caplan explains. They're also a good source of Omega 3 fatty acids <em>and</em> lutein. As Tufts nutritional biochemist <a href="http://www.fitsugar.com/Eating-Eggs-Can-Benefit-Eye-Health-882515" target="_hplink">told FitSugar, </a>eggs don't contain as much of that particular carotenoid as the leafy greens that are also on this list, but "the body is able to absorb these antioxidants better from eggs," <a href="http://www.fitsugar.com/Eating-Eggs-Can-Benefit-Eye-Health-882515" target="_hplink">she says.</a>
"Vitamin E might slow macular degeneration [and can also] decrease risk of cataracts," Caplan says (<a href="http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/lifestyle-guide-11/supplement-guide-vitamin-e" target="_hplink">although WebMD cautions</a> that studies looking at possible benefits for cataracts have been inconclusive). She recommends wheat germ as her top source for vitamin E, as well as other tasty options like almonds, sunflower seeds, peanut butter and the aforementioned sweet potato.
He added: “We should be eating 6mg of lutein a day, but the average consumption is only 2mg, which is way too low. In the Second World War, our average intake was 4-5mg and we weren’t even trying. But you cannot just eat vegetables alone, as lutein needs fat to be absorbed.
"Egg yolk is one of the UKs main sources of lutein – there is not much there, but the little there is absorbed efficiently. That is why eggs Florentine is such an effective meal – the spinach is a high source of lutein and the egg yolk maximises absorption.”
Don’t forget your eyes
Treat your eye health as you would any other part of your body. Most people are recommended to go for a check-up every two years, unless otherwise advised by an optometrist. Even if you think your vision is fine, some eye conditions, for example open angle glaucoma, may not show symptoms.
Be risk aware
People of Asian or African Caribbean descent or people over 40 should go for a sight test at least every two years as they are more at risk of developing eye disease
If you smoke, you have another good reason to kick the habit. Smoking is linked to blindness. Current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration – a progressive disease that can lead to significant sight loss – compared to past smokers or non-smokers.
It’s all relative
Talk to your relatives about your family eye health history as some eye conditions, such as glaucoma, can run in families. It’s important to think about your child’s eyes and to be aware of their vision, especially if there is a family history of lazy eye or squint or family members wore particularly strong spectacles when they were young.
Be cool in the sun
Protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Cumulative UV exposure may damage your eyes. When choosing sunglasses make sure that they are safe as well as stylish! Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks – this ensures that they provide a safe level of protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays. Don’t forget to also protect children’s eyes – they’re more at risk.
Protect your eyes
If you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.
Keep fit and healthy
Regular exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy but it is also important that when playing sports such as squash that you wear protective eye wear such as helmets or sports goggles to protect your eyes from a flying ball.
Protecting your eyes starts with the food you eat. Nutrients rich in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Recommended foods include green leafy vegetables and oily fish, such as salmon, and citrus fruits.
Contact lens care
If you wear contact lenses make sure you look after them properly. Thoroughly wash and dry your hands before touching your contact lenses or your eyes, and only ever clean your contact lenses using the solution recommended by your optometrist. Never shower, sleep or swim with your contact lenses in because this can put you at risk of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to blindness. Also, don't wear them for longer periods than recommended by your optometrist.
Recent studies suggest that although Britons value their eyesight above any other sense, around five million have not had an eye test in the last decade.
Dr Susan Blakeney, the College of Optometrists' clinical adviser, said: "86% of people value their eyesight above any other sense and over two thirds of people wear corrective lenses of some sort.
"However, it often takes a big change in vision or health for people to visit an optometrist to find out what's going on, and that may be too late to reverse any damage to sight, especially if you are in an at-risk group.
"Most people will probably be fine but it's worth remembering not every eye condition has symptoms so regular check-ups, unless otherwise advised by your optometrist, are vital to maintain healthy eyes."