One of our most precious senses is our eyesight.
Healthy vision for some may seem like a distant concern when you're young, but if you spend a lot of time staring at a computer or playing Xbox, you may already feel the strain, and need additional support for your eye health.
Your eye is an complex organ, allowing you to see and engage in life. For you amateur CSI 's to gain a bit more of an appreciation of the complexity, refer to the image above, as you read the function of each part:
- Cornea - the clear skin that covers the front of your eye. It's as clear as glass and contains no blood vessels.
- Sclera - the tough skin that surrounds most of the outside of the eyeball, known as the white of the eye.
- Iris – the colored part of your eye (blue, brown, green…) that controls the amount of light that enters your eye.
- Pupil - the hole in the iris that lets light into your eye. It becomes tiny in bright sunlight, and larger in darkness
- Lens - focuses light onto the retina. It changes shape as needed to ensure the picture on the retina is as clear as possible.
- Retina – your eyes’ very own upside down movie screen… Your retina has cells called rods and cones (named for their shape). Rods see black and white; cones see color. Each eye has about 120 million rods and 7 million cones! Together, they’re responsible for changing the received light into impulses. Those impulses are then carried to the brain along your optic nerve.
- Blind Spot – a tiny spot on your retina which isn't sensitive to light because it has no rods or cones. This is the spot where the optic nerve joins the retina.
- Optic nerve – transmits the electrical messages from the retina to your brain.
- Macula - in the center of your retina. Produces your central vision which enables you to read, drive, and perform other activities requiring fine, sharp, straight-ahead vision.
So the short version is, after light enters your pupil, it hits the lens. That focuses those light rays on the back of your eyeball. The Retina. Got it, now stay with me. The retina is in the very back of your eye. It's smaller than a dime, but it holds millions of light sensitive cells. It takes the light it receives and converts it to nerve signals so your brain can understand what your eye is seeing. Unfortunately, free radical damage from age and environmental factors can keep your eyes from functioning correctly. Here are some natural, common-sense strategies you can try to help protect your healthy vision.
- Quit smoking, Smoking ramps up free radical production throughout your body, and puts you at risk for bad health anyways.
- High blood pressure can cause damage to the blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow.
- Excessive sugar in your blood can pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus. Sugar can damage the blood vessels in your retina, also obstructing blood flow.
- Eat your vegetables. Studies have shown that a diet rich in dark leafy greens helps support eye health. And that those with the highest consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had increased vision health. Your mom was right
- Consume omega-3 rich foods such as fresh caught salmon, or supplement with krill oil, or flax seed.
The job of an antioxidant compound is to neutralize dangerous free radicals in your body. Lutein and Zeaxanthin are found in high concentrations in the macula lutea and believed to serve two primary roles; to absorb excess photon energy, and to quench free-radicals before they damage the lipid membranes. Lutein is a naturally occurring carotenoid. Lutein is used by your body as an antioxidant, and by your eyes for blue light absorption. Lutein is a powerful antioxidant, able to fight free radicals and protect cells from oxidative damage. Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables like spinach, carrots, squash, and other orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.
Lutein Content of Foods
|Food||Mg / serving|
|Kale (raw)||26.5 / 1 cup|
|Kale (cooked)||23.7 / 1 cup|
|Spinach (cooked)||20.4 / 1 cup|
|Collards (cooked)||14.6 / 1 cup|
|Turnip greens (cooked)||12.2 / 1 cup|
|Green peas (cooked)||4.1 / 1 cup|
|Spinach (raw)||3.7 / 1 cup|
|Corn (cooked)||1.5 / 1 cup|
|Broccoli (raw)||1.3 / 1 cup|
|Romaine lettuce (raw)||1.1 / 1 cup|
|Green beans (cooked)||0.9 / 1 cup|
|Broccoli (cooked)||0.8 / 1/2 cup|
|Papaya (raw)||0.3 / 1 large|
|Egg||0.2 / 1 large|
|Orange (raw)||0.2 / 1 large|
|U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory. 2005. USDA National Nutrient Database|
In a double-blind study on carotenoids, 17 patients taking 15 mg of Lutein three times a week for two years were compared to patients taking 100 mg of vitamin E or a placebo. The lutein group had statistically significant improvements in visual acuity and glare sensitivity, compared to the vitamin E and control groups. Zeaxanthin is the strongest antioxidant carotenoid found in your retina Unfortunately, zeaxanthin can't be made by your body, so it must be supplemented as part of your diet. Once transported to your eye, zeaxanthin relocates into several tissues, including your lens and your macula, to support their daily tasks. Lutein and zeaxanthin both readily pass into your eyes. Once in the oxygen-rich environment of your retina, they reduce the numbers of those nasty free radicals.
Your mother may have told you carrots would keep your eyes bright as a child, but as an adult, it looks like fruit is even more important for keeping your sight. Data reported in a study which involved over 110,000 women and men published in the Archives of Ophthalmology indicates that eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day may lower your risk of age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the primary cause of vision loss in older adults, by 36%, compared to persons who consume less than 1.5 servings of fruit daily. Three servings of fruit may sound like a lot to eat each day, but isn't your eyesight worth it? This means limit refined sugars and other refined foods. Insulin fluctuations drastically affect your eyesight. Limes anti-oxidant properties protect eyes from aging and macular degeneration. Flavonoids help protect them from infections. Regular consumption of pears is thought to lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration. Goji berries,are rich in antioxidants, particularly carotenoids such as beta-carotene and zeaxanthin. One of zeaxanthin's key roles is to protect the retina of the eye by absorbing blue light and acting as an antioxidant. In fact, increased intake of foods containing zeathanthin may decrease the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), the leading cause of vision loss and blindness in people over the age of 65. Egg yolks are also a good source of carotenoids which help to protect against macular degeneration of the eye as well as choline which is important for brain health.
So, there you have it now we are all a little more up to speed on how we can positively affect our eye health, now let's get started. Good Luck...
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