The Truth About Eye Health

Dr. Kimberly Reed gives tips on eye health and eye nutrition.

My husband often teases me because you’ll never see me outside when the sun is shining without sunglasses. My eyes are sensitive, and I have about 10 pairs of shades. If for some reason I cannot find a pair, you’ll hear about it the whole time. I try to encourage my kids to wear sunglasses; we have a dozen pairs for them as well, including little ones for my seven month old. While he often pulls them off, it’s still important to protect your eyes…just as important as protecting your skin.

I was able to ask Dr. Kimberly Reed, an associate professor of optometry at the Nova Southeastern University College of Optometry, some questions to help sort myth from fact. She gives helpful information about eye health especially during the height of summer.

At what age should we start wearing sunglasses?
Newborns on up! A lifetime accumulation of UV damage leads to many eye problems including cataracts, macular degeneration and cancers in and around the eyes. Sun protection should be worn at all times when outdoors to prevent these problems. And, we know that it is the exposure prior to age 18 that is most damaging, according to many studies.

Kids sunglasses aren’t usually polarized. What should we be looking for?
Polarized lenses are very nice and offer great quality vision and glare protection, but it’s not essential to block the sun’s harmful rays. You don’t need to spend a lot of money for good protection. Even economical lenses and frames will offer UV protection.

What are the nutrients that promote eye health? Are they just for adults or kids too?
A well-balanced diet is essential for eye health. Several nutrients promote ocular health. Some of the most important are omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E, zinc and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin. Foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin include spinach, kale, goji berries, red/yellow peppers and corn. Many studies show that adequate intake of these nutrients, among others, can help prevent or delay many age related eye diseases like cataracts and macular degeneration. The problem is that most adults (and kids) don’t get enough of these nutrients in the standard American diet. We all need to be more focused on making better food choices, and supplementing when there are gaps in the diet.

How do you promote overall eye health for kids and adults?
Good healthy lifestyles for overall health will naturally promote eye health, as well. A diet rich in richly colored fruits and vegetables, low in processed sugars and starches is a great safe bet. Not smoking, getting plenty of exercise and sleeping well at night will help, too!

What time of year (or maybe it’s time of day?) is the sun most dangerous to our eyes?
The same times as for skin damage: 10am to 2pm during summer months or at high altitudes or nearer the equator (i.e. on vacation in Florida). Skiing adds additional exposure through reflections off the surface of snow or water.

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Christine Bachman

About Christine Bachman

Christine Bachman is founder and president of Plan It PR, a public relations and marketing firm. The mother of five shares tips and survival stories in “Play Dates and Power Lunches.” Ms. Bachman started working public relations after a long career in broadcast journalism, which included work as a television anchor, reporter and producer.