Four tips for looking after your eye health this winter
By Liz Connor
Good eyesight is a key part of being healthy, and helps you perform well, whether that's at work, school or behind the wheel. Unfortunately, many of us tend to put our eye health last on the list of priorities, as our eyes usually don't hurt when there is a problem.
Getting regular check-ups at the opticians is an important part of keeping on top of any unusual changes, but there are other things you can do to safeguard your sight.
Here are a few key lifestyle changes that could make all the difference...
1. Take regular breaks from your computer
Looking at TVs, laptops, tablets and smartphones can cause eyestrain - early stage research has found that the blue light they emit can be harmful to the eyes, causing digital eyestrain and potentially retina damage.
The best way to avoid redness? Take a proper screen break; make a cup of tea, chat to a colleague or get some fresh air outside. The HSE (hse.gov.uk) suggest short, frequent breaks are better than less frequent, longer breaks.
Try following the 20-20-20 rule when you're in the office. This means for every 20 minutes you look at a screen, you should gaze at something that is at least 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds.
2. Eat well
Maintaining your eye health can start with what you put on your plate. For optimum vision, plump for antioxidant-rich foods that are packed with Vitamins A and C, such as leafy green vegetables.
Fatty fish, such as salmon and sardines, are particularly important too as they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help slow age-related degeneration of the macula - the part of the eye responsible for central vision.
3. Quit smoking
According to the NHS, smokers are twice as likely to lose their sight compared to non-smokers. This is partly because noxious particles in cigarettes can irritate the eyes, and can increase the chances of developing cataracts. Smoking can also cause a number of eye conditions to worsen, such as diabetes-related sight problems.
Look into free 'stop smoking' services that can boost your chances of kicking the habit for good. For instance, your GP might be able to offer one-on-one support, drop-in services or group appointments. Visit NHS.uk to find out what's available in your area.
4. Wear sunglasses
Exposure to the UV light emitted by the sun can contribute to cataracts and macular degeneration - even during the winter months.
A good pair of sunglasses can help keep your eyes safe on bright and chilly December days. Not all sunglasses protect you from harmful UV rays though, so make sure to do your research before picking up a pair of cheap but fashionable high street shades.
Look for a pair that offer 100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays - it should usually indicate this on the tag, but ask your optician if you're not sure. The more coverage from your sunglasses, the better the protection too - so swerve the tiny sunnies trend and opt for some oversized aviators instead.