Your choices are: taste, touch, smell, hearing or vision. Which do you fear losing the most?
Not surprisingly, a nationwide poll shows that vision tops the list External Site. The survey also showed that while many people knew sunlight and family history were risk factors for vision loss, many didn't know that your vision can be at risk if you smoke.
Here are a few habits that may be hurting your sight more than you realize.
Too much screen time
The contrast and glare of an electronic screen can eventually lead to eyestrain, and in some cases, computer vision syndrome, a repetitive stress condition that causes headaches, blurred vision, neck pain, dry or red eyes, fatigue, double vision and difficulty refocusing. Save your eyesight with these tips:
Keep your distance
Eyes should be at least an arm’s length away from a computer screen (about 25 inches) and 16 inches from a handheld device. If you can’t read a handheld screen from 16 inches away, increase the font size.
After 20 minutes of reading on an e-reader, smartphone or laptop, focus on an object 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This is the rule for people who are prone to spending long periods of time staring at a screen.
Read your screen in areas that are well-lit and turn the brightness on your screen down as far as you can while still reading it clearly. Use a screen filter if needed.
Smoking is extremely harmful to your health, including your vision. It increases your risk for all kinds of eye diseases. For example, doctors believe that smoking causes cataracts by altering the cells of the eye's lens External Site. Smoking also leads to the narrowing of blood vessels, which can lead to macular degeneration.
A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids and essential vitamins and minerals and superfoods like spinach, salmon and walnuts can help prevent eye problems. One food that isn't on the list — carrots. While they are rich in vitamin A — which your retinas need — most of us are not at risk for a vitamin A deficiency.
Lack of sun protection
Sunglasses keep us from squinting and prevent crow’s feet from forming around the eye. Even more important, sunglasses help block harmful ultraviolet (UV) light that damages the eye, causing cataracts and macular degeneration. To prevent damage to the eye, wear sunglasses that provide 100 percent UV protection.
Sunglasses should be worn year round whenever you are outside or driving, and especially in high glare areas around snow or water. Even on overcast days, UV rays penetrate through the clouds and cause damage.
Protect your eyes with an annual exam
One of the best ways to get a pulse on your overall vision health is to schedule an annual exam with your optometrist. Depending on your health plan, you may have coverage for an annual exam through your health insurance benefits. Before making an appointment, log in to myWellmark Opens New Window® to check your benefits.
If you're interested in a stand-alone vision plan and have health insurance through your employer, ask your human resources department for more information. If you have Medicare supplement coverage, you may be eligible to enroll in a new vision and hearing plan Opens New Window.