Is it possible to slow the decline of your eyesight as you age?
I sat next to a man I had never met before at a brunch last week. And he told me a most remarkable story.
His eyes had been playing up. The same old story that many of us suffer as we get older. He couldn’t read properly, and his sight had become blurry. His eyes felt dry, and by the end of a day at his computer they hurt. He finally went to the optician for a test, found his prescription had worsened considerably and ordered a new pair of glasses with the right lenses. Done and sorted.
But now the interesting bit. He had a booked a holiday on safari in Africa for two weeks and left before his glasses were ready for collection. Away he went, had a wonderful time and got back and went straight away to collect them. But when he put them on, he couldn’t see properly. He was retested, and to his amazement, his prescription had changed. In just that short fourteen day period, his eyesight had improved dramatically.
He seems to be the living embodiment of the fantasy figure you hear about from time to time, the person every optician will assure you doesn’t exist; the one that reverses his eyes decline through the use of things other than stronger and stronger lenses.
Eyesight and ageing
I went away and thought about it all. It was clearly unequivocally true for this one man. So the odds were that it could happen for the rest of us too, to some certain degree. Over the age of 50, nearly all of us will begin to find it harder and harder to read small print, and on average, statistics show that every 5 years we will lose the ability to see yet another line on the Opticians eye reading chart. Without ever increasingly strong glasses most of us struggle in older age.
But do we need to? There are all sorts of natural remedies for eyes. In combination, and bearing in mind that each of us is different, might they make a difference? Might they halt the vision decline we all wish we could avoid?
It seems to me that the very first step, before you focus on what you can do to get them better, is to take a look at what you absolutely mustn’t do.
Eyesight and ageing - the don’ts
1. And the number one thing is… Screens
You simply can’t spend so long looking at screens of various kinds every day. Think about it from your eye’s point of view. If you sit at a desk for hours on end, the distance they gaze at is fixed: exactly the same focus from morning till night. In days gone by you might have been working in the fields, looking into the distance, then back close up - checking the sky, the horizon and the earth, varying your field of vision endlessly. Like the automatic lens on a camera, the muscles would have been working hard to keep in focus, distances changing continually. Nowadays, after a day in the office with your screen, you might go on to spend a few hours in front of the television; perhaps some time playing computer games, or scrolling through your phone. Fixed distances all of them. Tense and tiring for your eyes. According to this report on our eyes in the digital age, by 2050, one in two people worldwide will be near-sighted.
It’s obvious isn’t it? Or at least it is when you finally pay attention.
Rather like a homeopath in Nelsons once said to me, ‘hitting yourself on the head with a hammer repeatedly, and expecting Arnica to solve the bruising isn’t really a long term strategy for success’.
Keep straining your eyes and your eyes will stay strained.
2. Don’t forget a check-up
Secondly, the obvious one: that somehow many of us never get around to. Apparently statistics show that on average people wait till their vision problems become severe before going to the opticians for a check-up and to upgrade their glasses. Like the proverbial frog in the pot, they simply don’t notice their eyesight going downhill until it’s that much harder to climb back up the slippery vision slope.
Eyesight and ageing - the do’s
1. Do give your eyes a break
We are all becoming more and more aware of the need to be less physically sedentary before our bodies sink into sluggish immobility. Schedule in time to exercise those eye muscles too. Add ‘eye time’ to your daily schedule, alongside your exercise time in the gym, or as you count steps on your smartphone app. It’s very simple: when you give your body a break from sitting too long, give your eyes a rest break too. Take time out from the screen, and scan the horizon. Focus on far objects and try to bring them into focus. Do the same in the mid-field. Move around, but focus, focus and focus a bit more.
Do try and train your eyes muscles, as regularly as you train your body muscles. Download the brain training app ‘Glasses Off’ that claims a 90% success rate with improving near vision. I am still in the early days with this so can’t really comment but they offer you a 5 minute vision evaluation, useful so you can compare your progress as you move forwards. Reviews such as ‘I used to have problems reading at night. After training for just a few weeks, I noticed that I no longer required my glasses to read at night’ abound. Fingers crossed it could be that simple...
2. Do supplement
The supplements that all eyes need are zinc, vitamin E, B1 (thyamine), lutein and zeaxanthin and the omega3 fatty acids. Add an all in one capsule to your daily pill quota.
Facial massage around the eye area helps breakdown any tension and relax your eyes. Concentrate on the area around the bridge of your nose, rubbing across your eyebrows to your temples and from your nose, back along your cheekbones and up to your ears.
Vision problems may be linked to lack of movement and the fixedness of our vision today, much of which is a result of staring endlessly at computer screens. Blinking helps keep your eyes moist and tension-free, and increases circulation. Simply becoming aware that you need to break your gaze from time to time is enough to break the habit.
5. Bates glasses
These blackened glasses filled with tiny pin pricks are the invention of Dr William Bates, over 100 years ago. He believed that the failing of our eyesight as we age is not to do with the weakening of the eye muscles, but rather the fact that they become too tight and tense to work properly. He believed that the key to re-invigorating vision is to learn to relax them sufficiently. He developed a system that did exactly that, relaxing the muscles around your eyes and encouraging the eye to move better. Buy his pinhole glasses on Amazon. This one seems, anecdotally, to work for some but not for all.
My best advice is to do as the brunch man did. Book yourself a long holiday somewhere off the beaten track, where the distances are vast, and leave all your screens behind - just for those two weeks (How addicted are you – does the very thought make you faint?). Check your eye readings before and after you go. The proof of the pudding will be very clear (excuse the pun) on your return.
The point is to actually ‘do’ the things that are suggested here. Rather like all those people who longingly wish to win the lottery and have planned exactly what they will do with every penny of their winnings, I would simply say, without physically buying a ticket, you sadly never will. The same is true for your sight. Take action, however, and you may just save your eyes. Leave all that squinting, straining and stressing behind. Your old age will benefit - and that ‘doing’ may make all the difference after all, strengthening your eyes and improving your vision.
How else otherwise will you ever get off the eye treadmill of constant decline?
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Written by health advocate Sara Davenport, founder of one of the UK's leading breast cancer charities, Breast Cancer Haven. With over twenty years' experience in holistic health, Sara's digital dose of wellness teaches you to listen to your body, tweak your lifestyle and improve your health.
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