Did you know that women are more likely to suffer from eye problems than men? More than half of the 4.1 million Americans (age 40 and older) with eye diseases are women - 2.6 million, to be exact. The culprits for this discrepancy are the longer life spans and hormonal changes during menopause. It's important to note that we're not just talking about dry eye, visual impairment and blindness. Age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy are all issues that women are more likely to develop. Moreover, today's popularity of smartphones and social media can contribute to an individual's decline in eye wellness. Since April is Women's Eye Health and Safety Month, here are five tips for maintaining eye health.
- Visit an Eye Doctor Regularly Routine check-ups are key to preventing a problem before it starts. Since your eye doctor knows your family history, he or she can look for signs of specific diseases. It's also important to make sure your glasses or contact lens are up-to-date. Otherwise, you'll be more likely to strain your eyes just to see or read. While regular trips to the eye doctor are a vital component of any health routine, they are especially important for women over 40.
- Limit Your Screen Time These days, everything is just a click or swipe away. Smartphones, tablets and laptops are more accessible than ever. Many occupations require some sort of work on a computer, while the popularity of social media and blogging embraces the digital screen. However, heavy use of electronics can cause some major strain on the eyes. To limit computer-related eye strain, keep your screens at a distance or increase the font and image size. Because we don't blink as much while staring at a screen, blinking often is crucial to preventing dry eye. Experts also recommend looking away every 20 minutes for 20-30 seconds, if not more. This will give your eyes a chance to rest and re-focus.
- Wear UV Protection Excessive exposure to the sun's harmful rays can cause a variety of eye diseases such as cataracts. To shield your eyes from the sun, wear UV-rated sunglasses when heading outside. For even more protection, wear a wide-brimmed hat to shield yourself in style. Now you have more than one excuse to go accessory shopping!
- Use Cosmetics with Care If you wear makeup, it's a good idea to throw out old eye cosmetics every 2-6 months. While this concept might sound horrific, hear us out: any product that comes into contact with your skin picks up bacteria. When the applicator (or finger) goes back into the product, bacteria is transferred back and forth, increasing your susceptibility to eye infections. As a rule of thumb, liquid cosmetics (such as mascara) should be tossed after 2 months. The liquid consistency is the best kind of home for bacteria, warranting a quick toss-out date. Dry cosmetics such as eye shadow or liner pencils can be used for about 6 months. If the thought of throwing out cosmetics makes you cringe, try using mostly samples and trial-sized versions. Not only will you be able to constantly test out new products, but you'll be treating your eyes with care.
- Eat for Eye Health Like many aspects of health, eye wellness can be influenced by the inside out. "Vitamins A, C and E - as well as the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin - may help prevent or slow vision changes caused by aging, " says Sarah Matharoo, RD, LD of of Pikeville Medical Center in Kentucky. Don't know where to start? Look for red, yellow, orange and dark leafy greens when shopping for produce. Kale, spinach, collard greens and turnip greens are amazing sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. A well-rounded diet is one of the best things you can do for not just your eyes, but the rest of your body. "When in doubt," says Matharoo, "eat a rainbow!"