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Eye Health – The 20/20 Truth

Eye Health – The 20/20 Truth

eye health

As age catches up with me (okay, I’m only in my mid-twenties), I’ve started to take my health much more seriously. One part of my health which I’ve recently started to think about is the condition of my eyes.

Stepping foot outside without contact lenses in or glasses on is no longer an option – unless I make a deliberate attempt to keep my head down in order to avoid making eye contact with people. Keeping my head down is the only way to avoid the inevitable of appearing rude after I bump into and ignore an old school friend, my auntie or even a work colleague. Ignoring somebody isn’t in my nature so if and when it happens, it’s not because I don’t like them but it’s because I didn’t see them, sorry, couldn’t see them.

“Eat your carrots, they’ll help you see in the dark”

By now, we all know that this was just a sneaky way to get you to eat your vegetables as a child. It’s an old wives tale that originated from World War II  when the RAF put out a story in the British newspapers saying that the RAF’s top-scoring night fighter pilot and his fellow night pilots owed their exceptional night vision to carrots, when in actual fact this was just a myth invented to hide their use of radar.

Since then, this myth has been passed down from generation to generation and although I can’t say for certain, I’d imagine it’s a phrase I will hear myself use once I have children myself. It’s a perfect go-to response to give to any child who puts their fussy cards on the table.

After being raised on white lies (don’t swallow chewing gum or it will stay in your stomach for 7 years, don’t make silly faces in case the wind changes and your face is stuck like that permanently and so on…) it’s no wonder we are left unsure about what is fact and what is fiction. To add fire to the flame, we are then faced with the challenges of the media. One minute we’re supposed to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day, the next we’re told seven is the recommended amount and then all of a sudden we’re told that a healthy diet means 10 portions of fruit and veg a day – not five, not even seven.

So back to the question of carrots – are they really the sight-boosters that they claim to be?

From personal experience I can tell you that as a child, even after eating all of the carrots on my plate at every sitting, I still couldn’t see in the dark and it certainly hasn’t provided me with the 20/20 vision that I crave. From a factual standpoint however, carrots are a good source of Vitamin A which is important for healthy eyesight, skin, growth and resisting infections. So yes, there’s some truth in the idea that carrots are good for your eyes but I certainly wouldn’t bank on them improving your night vision!

Just because we can’t directly improve our vision via carrots though, doesn’t mean that we can’t keep our eyes healthy.

So what are some of the simple steps that we can take to ensure this?

  • Try the 20-20-20 rule – every 20 minutes, look approximately 20 feet in front of you and for 20 seconds. This will allow your eyes a chance to have a rest and is especially important if you are spending a lot of time at your computer.
  • Always make sure you have washed your hands thoroughly before putting in or taking out contact lenses. This will avoid the risk of infection.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet that contains nutrients such as zinc which for example can be found in eggs, omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in salmon, vitamin C which can be found in berries and vitamin E which can be found in almonds. Maintaining a healthy diet will also reduce the risk of developing diabetes which can lead to vision loss.
  • Exercise regularly. A recent study has suggested that regular exercise may reduce the risk of such eye diseases as macular degeneration which is an age-related painless eye condition that generally leads to the gradual loss of central vision.
  • Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from ultraviolet (UV) rays. Make sure that your sunglasses block at least 99% of both UVA and UVB rays.
  • Wear protective eyewear when necessary
  • Attend regular eye tests and follow instructions from your opticians

As well as this, there is often talk around supplements which can help your vision, for example, lutein (loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (zee-ah-zan-thin). A number of studies have found that they help prevent macular degeneration by increasing the optical density of the macular pigment in eyes.

Have you tried any visionary supplements? What are your thoughts? A waste of money or worth a try? Let me know in the comments below!

[photo via wikimedia]

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