Happy 2024! With the new year comes the opportunity to take charge of your health and embrace healthy new habits. Making your retina health a priority is important because it can help you detect early stages of eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and vascular disease, which are usually painless and can progress to critical stages before you even notice. Here are some New Year’s resolutions that can help you maintain healthy retinas!
Schedule regular eye exams:
One of the most important things you can do for your eye health is to schedule regular eye exams, which allows your eye doctor to detect eye diseases in the early stages when treatment is most effective. Dilated eye exams are necessary for the doctor to thoroughly examine your retinal blood vessels and optic nerve, and look for any signs of retinal disease. The National Eye Institute recommends a dilated eye exam once every one to two years if you’re 60 or older. The American Diabetes Association recommends that adults with type 2 diabetes have their first eye exam when they are diagnosed and people with type 1 diabetes have their first eye exam within five years of diagnosis.
Incorporate more eye-healthy foods into your diet:
Not only is a healthy diet great for your eyes, but it’s great for your overall health and well-being. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, and fish can help keep your eyes healthy. Some foods that are particularly beneficial for eye health are fruits and veggies rich in Vitamin C, cold-water fish with omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon or tuna, and leafy green vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin. All of these foods deliver eye-healthy nutrients and vitamins that help keep your retinal blood vessels and tissues healthy.
Monitor and manage your ABC’s:
Monitor your A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol! High blood glucose levels, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels all increase the risk of eye disease, especially diabetic retinopathy. Keeping these levels in check can help reduce the risk of bleeding, swelling, and blood vessel damage in the retina, which can potentially lead to irreversible vision loss.
Kick the cigarettes!
Smoking has long been known to cause heart and lung disease, however many people don’t realize that smoking can lead to vision loss. Studies show smoking significantly increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy and even dry eye syndrome. Quitting smoking is the largest modifiable risk factor – meaning that it is a risk factor that can be controlled or changed. See your primary care doctor if you need help kicking the habit for good!
Know your family history:
Research and genetic testing has shown that many eye conditions including macular degeneration, glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy and even retinal detachment have a strong genetic component. Additionally, inherited retinal diseases (IRDs) are a group of eye diseases that can cause severe vision loss as a result of one or more genes that are not working correctly. If you do have a family history of eye disease, it’s a good idea to schedule an eye exam and discuss your family’s history of eye disease with your eye doctor. Knowing your risk, along with what signs and symptoms to look out for, can help manage and prevent vision loss.
To embrace all of these healthy habits overnight is not realistic for most people. Break down your goals into smaller, more manageable steps that work for you and your lifestyle. For the new year, prioritize your retina health and give yourself the gift of healthy vision!