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Ten tips for eye health

Because eyesight naturally weakens with age, nearly all of us will need to wear glasses or contact lenses by the time we're 65. But there's still plenty you can do to boost and protect your eyes.

Take care of your eyes

1. Go for regular eye tests

A rather worrying 41 per cent of adults aged 40 to 75 have noticed a deterioration in their eyesight, but done nothing about it,  according to a recent survey for the Simplyhealth Advisory Research Panel. 

Having a regular eye test is the best way to ensure your eyes are healthy – and can pick  up problems such as glaucoma or cataracts before there's any change in your vision. If you're over 60, you can have a free NHS test  every two years. And if you're 70 or over, you're entitled to a free test annually. 

Is it time for an eye test?

2. Don't diagnose yourself

More than one in 10 people have bypassed the optician and bought ready-made glasses from a pharmacy or supermarket, according to the  Simplyhealth survey. One word of advice: don't! It's very rare for both eyes to require exactly the same amount of correction. Going  for a test will ensure you get the prescription that's suitable and safe for you.

Find out what a visit to the optometrist involves

3. Take a look at your lighting

To see clearly at the age of 60, your eyes need three times the amount of light they did when you were 20. So make sure your home is  well-lit and gets as much daylight as possible. A few tips from Age UK 

  • Keep your windows clean and pull the curtains back as far as possible 
  • Ensure you have good lighting at the top and bottom of the stairs 
  • Use a flexible table lamp for reading 
  • Where possible, opt for fluorescent lamps: they produce a lot of light, but very little heat.

4. Stop smoking

Yes, it's yet another very good reason to quit. Smoking causes harm to the tissues of the eye and doubles your chances of losing your  sight, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People. In particular, it increases risk of  developing age-related macular degeneration (AMC) and has been linked to the development of cataracts. It can also worsen diabetes- related sight problems.

Want to quit smoking? Read our tips 

5. Don't forget your sunglasses

High exposure to harmful UVA and UVB rays from sunlight can burn the surface of the eyes and significantly increase the chances of  developing cataracts. The solution? Protect your eyes with sunglasses. But not just any old sunglasses: look for ones with a UV 400  label, 100% UV protection and the CE and British Standard marks. This indicates they've been made to an agreed safety standard.

6. Clear out your make-up bag

Eye make-up has a use-by date for a good reason. Kept for too long, these products can become breeding grounds for harmful bacterial  that cause conditions such as conjunctivitis and blepharitis, an inflammation of the eyelid. 

However, many women are holding on to  their cosmetics for up to six years too long, according to research by Escentual. Mascara  should be kept for no longer than four months – while eyeshadow and liner needs to be thrown away after a year.

7. Keep moving!

Taking moderate exercise, such as regular walks, can protect the eyes and help prevent age-related vision loss by preserving the  structure and function of nerve cells in the retina, say scientists at Emory Eye Center in the US. Keeping your weight in check with regular exercise may also help prevent eye problems related to conditions such as type 2 diabetes and stroke.

Tips for getting moving 

8. Take a screen break

Nine out of 10 adults admit to suffering symptoms of 'screen fatigue', including eye strain and problems with close and long-distance  vision, according to the Eyecare Trust. And because staring at a computer  screen can slow down the rate at which we blink by up to 400 per cent, more of us are suffering from itchy dry eyes, too. 

The  solution is simple: step away from the screen, at least every 20 minutes, and try to go outside or look out the window. Focusing on  distant objects relaxes the muscle inside the eye, which in turn lessens the strain. 

9. Eat an eye-friendly diet

No, we're not just talking about carrots. A feast of nutrients can protect your eyes and help prevent sight problems. A few examples?  

  • Vitamin E – found in seeds, nuts and wholegrains – can reduce risk of cataracts, according to new research published in Public Health  Nutrition
  • Omega-3 fatty acids – found in oily fish, walnuts and flaxseed – help strengthen and protect the retina. 
  • Carotenoids – found in green leafy vegetables – offer protection to the macula, the central part of the retina. Find out more about nutrition and eye health here

10. Check each eye separately

Because many conditions appear in one eye first, it's important to be aware of your vision on each side separately. Cover each eye in  turn and you're more likely to notice any changes – such as blank or blurry spots – in between check-ups.  If you do spot anything  out of the ordinary, don't wait for your next regular appointment. Contact your optometrist immediately.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.