Are you taking care of your eyes? 8 ways for good eye health

Image: D Sharon Pruitt via Flickr


Your eyes are with you from the day you were born, so it’s only fair that you take care of them.


At the computer

A big cause for eye strain in most people is the computer. It’s become such a big part of our lives now that it really is important to remember to take little breaks often and a longer break every hour or so. Our eyes like to change focus often, and it’s never good to be staring at something for too long. They say that you need to repeat something 100 times to become a habit, so make it a habit to have a 30 second daydream. Not only are you refocusing your eyes, you’re also collecting your thoughts.


Walking

Take the time to soak in your surroundings when you’re out and about. It’s best to get yourself back in nature even if it’s just a quick stroll through the park. Be conscious of the birds or the squirrels or the dogs, and notice the twigs and branches and veins on the leaves. Breathe in the air and hear the sounds immediately around you.

Take time out from your book or newspaper when you’re on the train or the bus. Look out the window and let your eyes wander over the many colours and shapes of people, shop windows and street furniture. If I had kept my head down instead of looking around, I would have missed this charity shop’s great window display:


Play

Go out and throw a frisbee or play catch. A few summers ago I tried juggling, and although I never did manage to juggle three balls for more than four seconds, it did get me to use my eyes in a new range of motion Some people bounce a ball against a wall to help them think and it’s a great way to enhance your hand-eye coordination.


Eat

The same healthy diet that’s good for your heart and arteries can also help preserve your eyes and vision. After all, vision depends on tiny capillaries to supply the retina and other parts of the eye with nutrients and oxygen. Studies have shown that there are several key nutrientsthat may help ward off age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Regularly eating these foods can help lead to good eye health:

  • Lutein and Zeaxanthin may help protect against retinal damage and the onset of cataracts and age-related macular degeneration - Green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, turnip greens, romaine lettuce, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts
  • Omega-3 fatty acids may reduce inflammation and therefore protect against cell damage and age-related eye diseases - Salmon, tuna, and other oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed
  • Zinc helps with night vision and cataract prevention – Good sources include kidney beans, beef, seafood, poultry and pumpkin seeds
  • Vitamin C helps support blood vessels in the eye and may reduce the risk of cataracts – Fruit and vegetables like oranges, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, and red bell peppers
  • Vitamin E protects the eyes from free radicals – Nuts such as peanuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and hazelnuts


Emotions

In Chinese medicine, the liver is linked to the eye, so it’s no coincidence that when you’ve had an angry outburst or a particularly annoying day you tend to get headaches that creep in behind the eyes. Some people who are especially angry or irritable may notice that they have red eyes. Acupuncture can smooth liver qi to remove stagnation and allow it to flow nicely and evenly again or to rebalance the liver and remove excesses.

De-stressing is important: you may find exercise or a physical activity helps or that a softer approach such as meditation or even getting a massage. Start a hobby, practice mindfulness or just go out for a walk (remembering of course, to drink in your surroundings with your eyes).


Acupressure

There are certain acupressure points on the body that you can do yourself.

  • On the foot: press down on the spot between your big toe and the 2nd toe. Press down and hold, you should feel a slight ache or soreness. Don’t press so hard you leave fingerprint marks.
  • On your hand: locate the spot between your thumb and index finger, it’s the “meatier” part. As with the foot, rub and hold down, making sure you don’t press so hard you leave fingerprint marks.
  • On your face: Using your eyebrows as a guide, locate the area outside the bony rim (so between your eyebrow and your eye) and press gently along from the beginning of your eyebrow to the end.


Wear sunglasses

Protect your eyes from UVA and UVB rays to minimise the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts. Choose sunglasses that offer UV protection, and polarised lenses help reduce the glare, very handy when you’re driving. Sunglasses may be associated with summer months but they should be with you even in the winter if it’s a particularly bright day -there’s a reason skiers wear shades. Not only will you be protecting your eyes, it will stop you from squinting and getting those furrows between your eyebrows.


Get annual checkups

Even if your vision is fine, you should still have a check up every year with an ophthalmologist or optometrist. And should you suddenly get blurred vision, blind spots, floaters or flashing lights go to A&E immediately.

 
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A soda ban does not remove liberty – it puts power back in your hands

Image: Ben Ostrowsky/sylvar via Flickr


It’s such a simple and common sense idea that it’s amazing it didn’t happen sooner. On 1 June 2012, New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced his plan to ban large servings of sugary and soft drinks (what they call soda in the US which is completely different from soda water). And when they say large servings, they mean large: in his plan, 32-ounce drinks will be banned (that’s just under one litre at 946mL!). You can still drink ridiculous amounts of the sugary drink of your choice, but you’ll have to buy two 16-ounce ones instead.


Why did the Mayor target the portion size of soft drinks instead of the fat and salt content in fried chicken or the portion size of hamburgers or the amount of butter in popcorn? The simplest answer may be that soft drinks (and alchohol) are full of empty calories. Despite “beer belly” being a mainstream phrase, many people are still unaware that the liquids they guzzle down contribute to weight gain and unlike milk or fresh juices, there is no nutritional value whatsoever in a bottle of fizzy pop.


However, rather than applauding this move to curb obesity, many have voiced their opposition against this plan to ban soda.


Unsurprisingly, the main outcry is coming from the drinks manufacturers themselves, like the tobacco companies before them. That’s understandable, it’s their product and hence their revenue that is coming under attack. But who else is complaining? How can people be angry that ridiculous bucket-sized beverages are being banned?


Rather than look at it from a healthcare point of view, many people seem to take offense and are condemning it as another example of a nanny state.


As the mayor says in this interview:

“We’re not banning you from getting the stuff,” he said on TODAY. “It’s just if you want 32 ounces, the restaurant has to serve it in two glasses. That’s not exactly taking away your freedoms. It’s not something the Founding Fathers fought for.”


There is an interesting discussion on the topic over at The New York Times, with some agreeing that it’s a good gesture but doomed for failure, and others thinking that a soda ban is not the right way to attack the obesity problem.


I for one, think this is a great idea. It’s not withholding the beverage from anyone, just making them stop for a second and think whether they really do want that second drink. It’s mindful eating at its simplest.  At the heart of Chinese medicine is one of moderation and balance. You can eat whatever you want but don’t get carried away and be excessive.


For those who actually do think this constitutes “government overreach”, here’s an inspired analysis of Bloomberg’s ban using the work of John Stuart Mill, the 19th-century English philosopher of liberty.


Do you think this plan has potential to improve the health of a city or even curb obesity? Or do you think it’s the government meddling into people’s lives unnecessarily? Share your thoughts below.


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