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Protect Those Baby Blues

Whether you consider your eyes to be the window to your soul or not, we can all agree on at least one thing: Those squishy little orbs are just about as precious as a three-week-old puppy. Here are some methods to safeguard your sight, from how to find the best sunglasses to foods you should eat. From YOU: Staying Young — The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty by Drs. Michael F. Roizen and Mehmet C. Oz.

We all know the most important thing to do to protect our eyes: Cover them when we see an oncoming bug, ball, spear, fist, or any other torpedoing projectile. But we can’t rely on eyelids, windshields, and safety goggles for everything. Here are a few ways to protect those baby blues.

YOU Tip: Block Those Rays. Sunglasses do more than hide you from paparazzi and make you look cooler than an Alaskan iceberg. They’ll protect your eyes from those nasty UVA and UVB rays. For best protection, follow these strategies:

  • Find glasses that filter out both kinds of rays (they don’t have to be expensive). Look for a label that specifically states 99 percent or 100 percent UV protection. An eye care pro can test them if you’re unsure.
  • They should be dark enough to reduce glare but not dark enough to distort colors, which could affect your recognition of traffic signals. Tint is a matter of personal preference.
  • People with contact lenses made with UV protection should still wear sunglasses.
  • Since UV rays can still enter from the sides and top of sunglasses, it’s smart to wear a hat with a three inch brim to help block light.
  • Make sure you goggle up with UV-protective eyewear, especially when you’re on the slopes or in the water. Skiing (water and snow) may be dangerous not only to your knees but to your eyes as well, because they’re being pummeled by both refractive and reflective light beams that bounce off the water or snow. So you have higher UV exposure on snow, water, and concrete because these surfaces reflect UV rays. (You also get higher radiation at high altitudes and low latitudes, like near Everest or the Caribbean.) Follow the same rule for your eyes as you do your skin: If you’re going to be exposed to the sun, do what you can to block as much as you can.

YOU Tip: See an Eye Doc. That’s once every two years after age forty-even if you don’t experience any changes in your vision. Besides being able to detect some asymptomatic problems like glaucoma, your doc gets to sneak a peek at the blood vessels in your brain and at your brain itself. As we said earlier, ophthalmologists often are the first docs to detect conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

YOU Tip: Feed Your Eyes. Of course, there aren’t too many things you actually want to put directly into your eyes, but that doesn’t mean you can’t pull the ol’ end around: through the digestive system. By getting the right nutrients, you can make sure that enough of them are diverted to your orbs. Our recommendations:

  • Lutein: Found in spinach, leafy green vegetables, and corn, lutein seems to improve the health of your eyes by preventing oxidative damage to your retina. You can also take it in supplement form at 6 to 30 milligrams daily.
  • Vitamin C: Research shows that people who eat more fruits and vegetables (which contain vitamin C and other bioflavonoids) are less likely to develop eye conditions than those who eat fewer.
  • Glutathione: Eggs, garlic, avocados, asparagus, and onions have the free-radical scavenger glutathione, which has been shown to be effective for preventing cataracts (at 500 mg dose). The supplement n-acetylcysteine also helps (also 500 mg daily dose).
  • The eye cocktail: A large study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that certain vitamins, when taken together, can help prevent vision loss for those who have age-related macular degeneration. (It wasn’t studied to show preventive powers for those who don’t have the disease.) The study found that those people who already had wet macular degeneration had a more than 25 percent reduction in their risk of vision loss if they took 500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400IU of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of beta-carotene (yes, carrots are good for your eyes), 80 milligrams of zinc, and 2 milligrams of copper every day in divided doses. P.S.: We think that a lower dose of 30 milligrams of zinc is safer for longer periods of time.

YOU Tip: Sit Back. There’s no evidence to suggest that prolonged TV exposure is bad for your eyes (maybe your brain cells, depending on what you’re watching, but that’s a whole different story). But that’s only if you make sure that you’re sitting the proper distance away so your eyes can accommodate to the picture. Take the diagonal screen length of your TV and make sure you sit at least that far away from it.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Michael F. Roizen, M.D., is a New York Times bestselling author and cofounder and originator of the very popular RealAge.com website. He is professor and chair of the Division of Anesthesia, Critical Care Medicine, and Pain Management, and chief wellness officer of the Cleveland Clinic. Mehment C. Oz, M.D., is also a New York Times bestselling author and the health expert of The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is professor and vice-chairman of surgery at New York Presbyterian Columbia University and the medical director of the Integrated Medicine Center and the director of the Heart Institute. They are the coauthors of YOU: Staying Young: The Owner’s Manual for Extending Your Warranty (Copyright © 2007 by Michael F. Roizen, M.D., and Oz Works LLC).

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