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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pointspace’s May Round-up | How a little exercise brings big benefits and does a lack of vitamin D affect our health?

Image: AJ Batac via Flickr


What weather we’ve had this month! The wettest drought since records began all the way to the glorious week of summer. The important question, of course, is will it be a washout during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee bank holiday next week?


1.  It’s typical that the weather is a bit rubbish around bank holidays, but a lack of vitamin D means much more than rickets. A Danish study adds to a growing body of evidence that the paucity of sunlight in the UK for most of the year not only makes us miserable, but could actually be doing us harm.


2.  Another preliminary study from Denmark showed that joggers live longer, with an average of 6 more years of life. The interesting thing about this research is that it appears, the “optimum benefit was realized for those who jogged at a slow-to-average pace between an hour and two and half hours done in two to three sessions over the course of a week.”


3.  And now from jogging to just plain moving. Last week I blogged about research showing that sitting is really bad for you. So in the scheme of things: sitting is really bad, standing is good and moving is even better. You would think then that running marathons is much better than sprinting – after all you’re putting in so much more effort for a much longer period of time. As it turns out, that’s another myth, so hurray for us time-strapped people. Time Healthland had an interesting interview this month with New York Times columnist and author Gretchen Reynolds about her new book on how a little exercise brings big benefits.


4.  What do you think is the cause of the obesity epidemic: our more sedentary lifestyles, the lack of exercise, genetics, poor diets or overeating? Carson C. Chow is an investigator at the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases trying to figure out why 1 in 3 Americans are obese. The surprising thing about Dr Chow is that he’s an M.I.T.-trained mathematician and physicist using mathematics to solve the problem. His work has brought up some interesting information such as “the fatter you get, the easier it is to gain weight. An extra 10 calories a day puts more weight onto an obese person than on a thinner one”. Read the complete interview here.


5.  As news of a “fat tax” on unhealthy food was being discussed, UK sales of processed breakfast cereals are dwindling with more and more people favouring healthier, more natural alternatives to the sugary brands. Nick Barnard of natural foods company Rude Health says, “I do think, in 20 years’ time, we might look back at the past 100-odd years and say: ‘We took good, natural, healthy, original grains, and turned them into sweet, scientific, industrial concoctions. Why?’” Put that way, it does seem all a bit silly, doesn’t it?


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Tips to a stress-free Bank Holiday Royale

Easter_eggs

  

Bank holiday season is upon us. By the time you read this, chances are you, like many others up and down Britain, are taking advantage of the Easter break and next week’s special Royal Wedding Bank Holiday (a nod to the lovely couple for getting married on a Friday instead of over the weekend).

 

From experience, I know for a fact that England likes its traditions and will try its hardest to keep them going year after year. Tradition has it that any bank holidays will be a washout, but I suspect this might be a tradition that’s going to slip on the wayside as the glorious hayfever-inducing spring weather seems to be unrelenting.

 

Holiday travel chaos is another tradition that likes to rear its head. While traffic jams seem to be never-ending, this might possibly be the year you won’t be spending 4 hours to travel 20 miles in a car, or changing 7 trains on a triangular path to your destination. (Travellers on a plane will just have to grin and bear it, and wonder whether the illusion that the whole world is on the plane with them isn’t actually an illusion.)

 

Open the window and feel the fresh air.

 

I, for one, will be staying in London. The exodus of the city’s dwellers dashing off to distant lands (or Southend) means London has a delightful “secret garden” feel to it. It’s a grand feeling to wander down its eerily quiet streets but without having to indulge in some mental zombie-fighting tactics a la “28 days later”.

 

No matter whether you have the whole 2 weeks off or just 2 days, here are some tips to help you enjoy your bank holiday double whammy.

 

What is it they say? Slip slop slap. The name of the health campaign in Australia where the sun is extremely potent, it refers to its motto of “slipping on a shirt, slopping on some sunscreen and slapping on a hat”.

 

The problem with the British weather is that it’s dark for quite a few months of the year, and while it does get four seasons, the sun is seen as such a rare and joyous thing that many people go towards it like moth to a flame. I was speaking to a friend one day about the uniquely British phenomenon of putting on summer gear at the first sighting of the sun’s rays in March. Every year, it never ceases to amaze me to see tank tops and bare arms out in 12 degrees centigrade. My friend explained, “You need to take advantage of it when you can, this might be the only summer we’ll have.”

 

I think we can confidently say with the current climactic trends towards milder seasons that the British Isles will start to see more and more of this rare phoenix of a creature we call summer. Just today they were forecasting that Easter weekend here will be warmer than Athens and on par with Tenerife.

 

So put on your sunscreen, actually don’t slop it, it’s better if you rub it in well.

 

Use moisturiser that has SPF in it.

 

I’m going to say wear a hat that covers your face and neck even though no one will listen, but do wear sunglasses. Besides making a fashion statement, you’ll be protecting your eyes from the sun’s UV rays, preventing wrinkles since you won’t need to squint AND for hay fever sufferers out there, it’s another barrier between you and all that pollen.

 

Plan ahead. I am a believer that if you plan certain things ahead of time, then your life will be much more of a stress-free zone. I’m not saying suck the spontaneity out of your life completely, but it does help to give things a little bit of structure.

 

If you’re travelling with a group of friends, democracy isn’t always the best choice. How many times have you all stood there on the sidewalk um-ing and ah-ing about where to eat? If all of you really don’t mind, then you would’ve gone to the first place suggested. If however, you do mind, then maybe you should start discussing these things a day in advance or at least before your collective bellies start grumbling and growling.

 

For a lot of people, travelling on holiday is a great way to relax. However, for a lot of people, the actual travelling can be the nerviest and stressful time of the whole holiday. Have you ever come back from a holiday thinking you could really do with another one to unwind from it all?

 

Think about what it is that puts you on edge. Is it holiday fatigue? Some people pack way too many things into one day, mainly because of the amazing culture available or because it’s their only holiday for the year. Regardless, if it becomes too much like a work schedule, actual fatigue will always outweigh the pleasures of discovering something new.

 

Watch what you eat. The warmer and longer days mean that ice cream will be a lovely little treat for many of us. And we’ll all be substituting our stews and hot pots for salads and fruit. While it’s always good to have a break from stodgy carb dinners, eating cold food isn’t the most ideal thing for our bodies.

 

Cold foods can impair the function of the spleen according to the theories of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). When the spleen is weakened its ability to transform and transport the nutrients from your food is also disrupted and it could lead to symptoms like indigestion, loose stools, lethargy or dizziness.

 

You can have your ice cream and eat it too, but don’t overindulge and have five in a row. One of my favourite spring-time salads consists of little boiled jersey potatoes, stir-fried asparagus, cherry tomatoes and tuna all on a bed of salad leaves- served at room temperature.

 

Finally, remember to enjoy yourself. Unlike Christmas, this is a holiday where you’re not obliged to spend it with family and are free to go wherever you want. If you do spend it with a family, the lovely barbeque weather makes it a much more relaxed affair than the more traditional Christmas dinner. If you have children, the Easter egg hunt is a good way to spend time outdoors. And if you’ve decided to spend the whole week indoors with the curtains pulled having a marathon session of Bruce Lee movies, that’s fine as well.

 

Take this time to recuperate from shedding the heavy layers of winter and bask in the light.

 

Have a lovely Easter, enjoy yourself and be safe.

 

Photo credit: furtwangl via flickr

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