Even if you are at 20/20 today, your vision will deteriorate as you age.
Just as exercise can help keep your body younger and healthier, there are key things you can do to keep your eyesight healthy.
We rarely appreciate the things we have, until they are gone. 20/20 vision is one of those things. We enjoy it while we have it. As we age, our eye's focusing muscle progressively looses it's full range. This means glasses, sooner or later. What most of us don't realize, we can prevent needing glasses until quite late in life.
Here is an e-mail I received the other day, which inspired this post:
I came across this website researching something else. I saw information about naturally correcting eyesight so I decided to check this out because it a subject that I related to personally. After reading much of this I am totally and completely convinced this is what happened to me. Of course it was all by accident. When I was a kid, I was blind as a bat. I wore a very strong eyeglass prescription. I HATED MY GLASSES and wore them less than 50% of the day. My parents made me put them on all the time but I constantly took them off. I only wore them when my parents made me and when I absolutely needed them to see something. My parents and my eye doctor told me that I would be blind by the time I was 18. Well, because I didn't wear my glasses, by the time I was 18 my eyesight actually corrected itself and I developed 20/20 vision. My parents and eye doctor were baffled. The doctor said that he had seen this before and admitted that if I had worn my glasses all the time then I would still need them. He said in some cases the eyes will correct themselves. Of course this was 20 years ago so the knowledge of the subject probably wasn't there yet, I'm sure. I was a kid and still growing so Im sure that the procedure would need some specialized equipment to be effective. I am now 36 years old and do not wear glasses still to this day. Thank you for solving a life long mystery to me!
Now he is 36 and has 20/20 vision. Ten years from now, this might be 20/30. He will likely also begin to show symptoms of hyperopia (not being able to read without glasses). Another ten years, and it will quite likely be reading glasses for any close up work.
It's just nature. Our muscles become less flexible as we age.
But have you ever noticed how the physically fit 70 year olds move like they are twenty years younger? My own grandmother was still swimming half a kilometer every day in her early 90's, and walking several kilometers every day. She just did it all her life, and her body simply maintained the ability to do what was required of it on a daily basis.
Your eyes are the same way. I have dozens of clients in their 80s who are still at 20/20 and don't need reading glasses. What's special about them?
These 80 year olds use just three habits to keep their eyes at 20/20.
If you have read through this site, you already know all the basics about how vision works, what causes myopia, the basis of reducing strain and exercising the ciliary muscle with focus work.
So if your eyes are healthy, all of this still applies!
More specifically, I have three routines I recommend to those with currently healthy eyesight. Do these, and you will be one of those 80 year olds who still have perfect vision. Trust me ... at that age, you don't want to have to remember where you left those glasses!
- 1. Practice healthy near-focus work habits.
- 2. Build a habit of keeping a log of Snellen measurements.
- 3. Use plus lenses to limit your focus.
Let's explore each of these in some detail:
1. Practice healthy near-focus work habits.
This one is simple:
- Keep at least 50 centimeters distance from your eyes to your focus surface (book or computer screen).
- Take breaks. Limit close-up focus to no more than 1 to 1 1/2 hours at most before taking a 20 minute break.
- Don't read in low light, be ware of eye strain (tearing, headaches).
It's easy to take your body for granted when it works properly. Avoiding strain, key to any healthy habit. You want to keep a good distance from computer screens, books, and newspapers, so your eyes don't have to focus too closely. Remember, the closer the object, the harder the focusing muscle in your eyes has to contract, to let you see clearly. This muscle does not signal pain - so while it might seem effortless to look at something at 10 centimeters close-up, it is actually some very heavy work for your eyes.
Breaks of course will keep your eyes happy. Even if you have to do something for two hours, commit to taking breaks. Set a timer on your phone. After an hour, go do something around the house or take a short walk. If at work, use the 'smoke breaks' rule to just get away from your desk.
2. Build a habit of keeping a log of Snellen measurements.
Do you own a bathroom scale? Do you get annual health checkups? Does your car have sensors and a check engine light to let you know if something is wrong?
Take a moment to appreciate the meaning of being able to see. Cover your eyes, and imagine that being your life - blind. You appreciate your car enough to probably get it checked out if that check engine light comes on. Your eyes are infinitely more valuable to you than your car! Equally, you want to make sure that they are working properly.
Order a nice Snellen chart from Amazon.com. They are only a few dollars. When it arrives, hang it on a wall where it reminds you of its existence. Mark the correct distance in front of it. Maybe keep a little notepad somewhere nearby. Once in a while, just step in front of that Snellen, and see that you can read the 20/20, 20/15, 20/10 lines. Make a note of the date in the notepad.
You might have days where 20/10 isn't happening. Take note of it. Write down what you did that could have caused that.
Over time this log will be valuable. You can see if your eyes are getting worse. Are you having less 20/10 days than last year? Well, maybe it's time to step up some prevention work! Remember, when you are 80, it will be tough to remember things, like where you left your glasses. A little prevention today will save you all that hassle when you are older. Your older you will thank you!
3. Use plus lenses to limit your focus.
Somwhere on this site are instructions on how to properly use plus lenses. They are just reading glasses you can buy at most convenience stores and drug stores.
Reading glasses, if you have 20/20 vision, make it so that you can actually only see up-close to a limited distance. Wearing them will allow you to exercise 'pushing' your focus - actively working on focus, instead of just coasting by on what your eyes can do today.
How do you pick reading glasses?
- Find a good selection at your local drug store.
- Use a book / newspaper, keep it at about 50cm / 20" distance from your eyes.
- Try reading glasses till you find a strength where things start to get blurry at that distance.
Simple, right? Basically, you want glasses that limit your clear vision to about 50 centimeters or 20". It can be a further distance too, if you want to do the exercise with a computer screen that you like to have further away. The key is simply to get reading glasses that put blur in your reach, at the far end of where you comfortably focus up close.
Now you can do a simple exercise:
Wear the glasses. Slowly move backwards from the screen / page till things JUST barely start to get blurry. Move a tiny bit closer, until they are in focus again. This should just be moving your head less than an inch / a couple of centimeters. Keep yourself right at that edge where things get just a tiny bit blurred. Try to get your eyes to bring the text into focus (we call this focus pushing). Blink a few times (no squinting, though!). Move a tiny bit closer. Work that edge of focus.
What happens here is that gradually, over time, your eyes actually can improve their ability to push that focus. This only happens when your brain gets the signal of 'hey, there is blur', but just ever so slightly. It has to be a small measure, to make it possible for your eyes to push that back into focus. If the image is too blurred, it is just out of reach for your eyes to adjust. But a tiny bit of blur can be corrected.
Read like this for 30 minutes a day, three days a week. You don't have to move your head back and forth the whole time, just stay at that edge of focus, and make your eyes push the focus, while you are reading. It's meant to be simple and not straining, just keeping things to where blur is almost happening.
That's it, the simplest of eye exercises, helping you with prevention!
All this might sound familiar if you already read the 4 Pillars. It is simple, easy work you can do, to keep your eyes happy. And as I like to do with these how-to posts, let's conclude with ...
So, what can you do for your healthy eyesight, today?
- Go on Amazon.com and order yourself a Snellen chart.
- Put on your to-do list to stop by a drug store to sample reading glass strengths.
- Pick a spot in the house for the Snellen, stick a notepad nearby.
Once the Snellen arrives, all you have left to do is to hang it up, check your vision, put a quick note in your new vision log book.
Keep the reading glasses by your computer, so they remind you to get some exercise in.
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