Are you squinting too often because you forgot to wear your sunglasses, or staring at a bonfire for hours at night?
These habits can lead to damage to the eyes. Although eye health is not commonly talked about, it’s particularly important to focus on during the summer months. (1).
This article will discuss four ways to improve your eye health during the bright summer months to keep them healthy and safe all year long.
Why it’s important
Let’s first talk about why improving your eye health in the summer is even important.
First, we’re exposed to much more sunlight in the summer, and sunlight gives us UV rays. When the sun reflects off surfaces such as water or sand, the UV rays can bounce back into our eyes.
This can lead to a painful condition called photokeratitis; a condition that is similar to having a sunburn on the eye.
Another problem that can happen is the development of cataracts (or the clouding of the lens of the eye). Unprotected exposure to the sun’s UV rays is a cause of this (2).
Lastly, eye cancer or uveal melanoma can develop with frequent unprotected sun exposure. Individuals who have light-colored eyes are at highest risk for developing eye cancer (3).
All in all, without the proper eye protection, we can become at risk for some painful health conditions.
So here are four ways to improve your eye health this summer:
1. Look at your diet:Nutrients such as Vitamins C and E, Omega-3 Fatty Acids, Zinc, Zeaxanthin and Lutein can help improve eye health. Research has found those nutrients to play a role in the prevention of cataracts, as well as vision loss. Sources of these nutrients can be found in the following foods (4,5):
Vitamin C: leafy greens, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, red and green peppers, sweet potatoes, lemon, and strawberries
Vitamin E: almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, avocado and salmon
Omega-3 Fatty Acids: fatty fish such as salmon or sardines, walnuts, cod liver oil, flaxseed and chia seeds
Zinc: meat such as beef or pork, shellfish, nuts and seeds, and eggs
Lutein & Zeaxathin: leafy greens, broccoli, zucchini, yellow peppers, and egg yolks
Along with food, adding in supplements to get these nutrients can also be helpful. For example, taking ourU-Omega supplementis a great way to ensure you’re getting enough Omega-3’s on a daily basis.
2. Protect your eyes:Wearing sunglasses is critical for protecting your eyes, but the quality is important. For the best protection, look for sunglasses that block 100% UV-A and UV-B rays, and have a large frame to block as much as possible. In addition, wearing sunglasses even if you’re in the shade or when it’s cloudy outside is important since the sun’s UV rays can penetrate through clouds.
Remember that not all sunglasses block 100% of the UV rays. If you’re unsure of the level of protection of your sunglasses, get them evaluated through your eye doctor6).
3. Give your eyes a rest:Get caught up with staring at the bonfire or sunset? Staring at the same thing for too long can be damaging on the eyes. That’s why it’s best to practice the 20-20-20 rule.Every 20 minutes, look away about 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds. This can help reduce eyestrain and support eye health, while also giving you a different view to look at (7).
4. Take a break from electronics: Watching television and using tablets or cell phones expose our eyes to blue light. Although the amount of blue light is small compared to the exposure you get from the sun, there’s still concerns; especially with long-term use, and the amount of time most people are spending using electronics on a daily basis. To help with this, you can wear blue light blocking glasses at night if you’re watching television, on your phone, or using other electronics. Also, limiting screen time to less than two hours per day can also be helpful for limiting exposure (8,9).
Eye health is something that’s often neglected, but the summer months can bring a lot of strain to our eyes.
It’s important to protect your eyes with not only the right sunglasses, but also good nutrition, rest, and taking a break from electronics.
Autumn Enloe, MS, RD, LD, CLT
Autumn Enloe is a registered dietitian in Minnesota. She has a private practice where she focuses on helping women take care of themselves through proper nutrition, supplement and lifestyle adjustments. She provides remote nutrition coaching and frequently posts free nutrition content and recipes at her website: www.autumnenloe.com.
In her free time she enjoys chasing around her toddler, laughing with her husband, creating recipes in the kitchen, and practicing yoga.