IF we were asked to describe which of the senses we could not bear to lose research shows that 90 per cent of us would most fear losing our sight.
Our eyes are our link with life around us, our guide to inter-action, and the idea of losing that daily visual connection is naturally frightening.
But, with that in mind, do we really take enough care of the precious gift of sight? And are we aware of the problems that can affect it as we grow older?
Taking care of your sight is hugely important.
It’s a fact that nearly two million people in the UK today are blind or partially sighted, and that every 15 minutes someone, somewhere begins to lose their sight.
Such worrying statistics should make us want to rush out and do something practical about caring for our eyes, but the reality is that many of us simply don’t know how to.
There are, however, some simple things that we can do to help our vision and look after our eyes. And, just like any other part of the body, exercise is important.
Yes, strange as it may sound, a workout for the eyes can definitely tone eye muscles which can help our eyes focus more easily and may alleviate eyestrain.
Try this easy Eye Workout two or three times a day. But before you start, ensure you remove your glasses or contact lenses, bathe your eyes so they don’t feel dry or scratchy, and relax, breathing deeply and focusing on your eyes.
Look straight ahead, imagine that you are looking at the face of a giant clock. Keeping your head still, move your eyes slowly to each number on the clockface in a clockwise direction then repeat the movement anti-clockwise. Next, look up at the number 12, stretching your eye muscles as much as you can, then down at the 6, then stretch to 3 and across to 9.
Squeeze your eyes into a tight ball and hold there for three seconds. Open your eyes and stretch them as wide as you can for three seconds. Repeat the exercise five times.
Hold up a finger in front of your face, about six inches away. Select another object – a tree or building, for example – at least 20 feet (6 metres) away. Then alternate between these two points, far and near, looking at each for around two seconds at a time. Repeat the exercise for two to three minutes.
DARK TO LIGHT
Place your cupped palms over your open eyes and hold them there for 20-30 seconds. Allow your eyes to relax in the darkness, take long deep breaths then remove your hands and blink slowly.
Just like any other element of personal health, good nutrition is necessary to help our bodies grow properly, repair wear and tear, protect against infection and function correctly. And the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) points out that antioxidant vitamins found in certain foods have been linked with eye health, helping to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye.
This mainly involves antioxidant vitamins A, C and E which can be found in different types of fruit and vegetables including oranges, kiwis, grapefruit, dried apricots, tomatoes, peppers, raw carrots, kale and spinach, green peas and beans and brussel sprouts. They are also in nuts, seeds, dairy products and eggs.
The RNIB says it has also been suggested recently that two types of antioxidants known as carotenoids, and called lutein and zeaxanthin, may also help with eye health. Some studies have found that people who have a good diet rich in carotenoids, particularly lutein and zeaxanthin, have a lower risk of developing Age-related Macular Degeneration – an eye condition resulting in the loss of central vision..
Lutein can be found naturally in vegetables and fruit including yellow peppers, mango, bilberries, kale, spinach, chard and broccoli. And zeaxanthin can be found in orange sweet peppers, corn, lettuce (not iceberg), tangerines, oranges and eggs.
A regular eye test can identify any early indications of diseases such as Cataract, Glaucoma and Age-related Macular Degeneration. It can also identify other problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure for which the optometrist can refer you back to a GP.