Your eyes are crucial for your well-being. Losing your sight usually means losing your independence – and much of what makes life rewarding and worthwhile to those of us blessed with sight.
That’s why in surveys about how people feel about their sensory perception, the ability to see is rated as the most important of the senses.
But your daily habits can affect your sight – the things you do every day, and the foods you eat, influence your risk of losing some or all of your vision.
So here are three important steps you can take to preserve your ability to see – and to see well.
Bad Side Effect of a Popular Drug
Sildenafil citrate, the active ingredient in Viagra and similar medications for male performance, has a little-known side effect that can hurt eye health. My advice would be to go easy on it, if you take it at all.
A study at the Mount Sinai School of medicine shows that if you overdo it with this drug, your color vision suffers. The medication causes damage to the cells in your eyes that may result in irreversible long-term injury.
“People live by the philosophy that if a little bit is good, a lot is better. This study shows how dangerous a large dose of a commonly used medication can be,” says researcher Richard Rosen. “People who depend on colored vision for their livelihood need to realize there could be a long-lasting impact of overindulging on this drug.”
Dr. Rosen cites the case of one man who took an overly large dose of sildenafil citrate and quickly started seeing a red tint to everything in his field of vision. And the distortion wouldn’t go away.
In examining his eyes, the researchers found that the cones of his retina, the cells that produce color vision, were seriously impaired. While the problem appears to be overdosing, I would think about natural ways to achieve the same purpose. Exercise, losing weight and nitric oxide boosters like beet juice will all do that.
A New Reason for Taking Fish Oil
On a happier note, a study at Louisiana State University demonstrates that taking fish oil supplements – and eating more fish – can help protect your eyes from both injury and disease. The researchers found that eyes use the fatty acid DHA in fish oil – docosahexaenoic acid – to make substances that help cells in the retina attain what the scientists call “preconditioning protection.”1
What that means is that DHA helps your eyes stay ready to fend off disease or other problems that could lead to blindness. In a state of preconditioning protection, the cells’ antioxidant protections are ramped up and inflammation in the eye is kept under control.
At the same time, research in Japan shows that fish oil can help prevent dry eyes2 – a condition that can make your eyes feel itchy and burning. This condition results when the tears in your eyes don’t protect the front surface of the eyes correctly. The Japanese study shows that three months of taking fish oil supplements can significantly improve the eye’s ability to stay properly hydrated.
Daily Stress and Your Eyes
While you’re upping your fish oil intake, think about taking a meditation course as well. Here’s why. . .
Chronic stress in your life can cripple eye function. According to research in Germany, when you’re constantly stressed out, you are more likely to develop problems like diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration and optic neuropathy.
The German scientists explain that stress increases the body’s production of cortisol, a hormone that throws the autonomic nervous system out of balance. At the same time, it also plays havoc with your blood pressure.
The blood pressure problems occur because the stress you experience causes blood vessels to constrict – a process that can both increase pressure and, when vessels supplying blood to the eye narrow excessively, cuts off much of the blood flow to the retina.3
The retinal cells, deprived of oxygen and nutrients, can no longer function properly. According to the researchers, the lack of oxygen is especially problematic when the nerve cells in the eye are trying to send to the brain information about what the eyes are seeing. They say that without oxygen, these nerves stop working – “like a car without gas.”4
To help relieve eye-damaging stress, the researchers recommend relaxation activities like meditation and soothing breathing exercises.
They also recommend what they call eye yoga, a technique for training your eye muscles. One such program is at https://www.netdoctor.co.uk/healthy-living/wellbeing/a26533/cope-with-eye-strain/.
The take-away message from this type of research is that there’s a lot you can do to take care of your eyes and ensure that they stay healthy. Don’t take your eyes for granted!