Start by checking in with your optometrist about your eye health.

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Woman in eye exam
Credit: Getty / ljubaphoto

You may not be able to avoid reading glasses forever, but keeping your eyes healthy and strong as you age is just as important as caring for your joints, heart, and muscles. Eating the right foods, wearing appropriate sunglasses, and monitoring your overall health can protect your eyes from premature problems. Ahead, a comprehensive guide to keeping your vision sharp and your eyes healthy over time.

Eat a healthy diet.

Sticking to a balanced lineup of foods—including healthy fats and leafy greens—does as much for your eyes as it does for the rest of your body, says ophthalmologist Dr. Kathryn Colby of NYU Langone Health; major research supports a connection between certain micronutrients and reduced progression of some kinds of eye disease. "We encourage people to have a healthy diet rich in green, leafy vegetables and good fats," says Colby. "From an ophthalmology standpoint, salmon—or another fatty fish—and spinach is almost an ideal meal."

Control your blood sugar and blood pressure.

Patients experiencing high blood pressure and diabetes are also at risk of vision problems: "Diabetic eye disease is the number one cause of preventable blindness in working age adults in the United States," says Colby. Diet, exercise, and other lifestyle choices can help prevent retina damage and other vision problems related to broader health issues. "If you do have diabetes, you need to have regular eye checkups," says Colby, "so if there are changes in the retina they can be diagnosed early and treated, rather than wait until they're at the end stage."

Minimize your expose to ultraviolet light.

Wearing sunglasses when it's bright outside is instinctual, but choosing high quality glasses that shield your eyes from both UVA and UVB light is essential, says Colby, whether you're driving, golfing, skiing, or hiking. "Just like the UV light ages our skin, it also ages the eye, and can be associated with things like early development of cataracts, or even more serious—but less common—things like skin cancers on the surface of the eye," she says. "If you like fancy designer sunglasses, that's fine, if you like ones available at [the drugstore], that's fine, too, so long as they block UVA and UVB." Just as important: Have UV light-blocking sunglasses for your kids handy, too. "The reality is that most of us get the bulk of our sun exposure when we're young, before we turn 18," says Colby, "so don't forget your children—protect their eyes, as well."

See an eye doctor when it's time.

While it's important to have your kids' eyes checked for vision problems when they're young—either at school or at their regular checkups—teens and adults with no trouble seeing generally don't need to schedule visits with an ophthalmologist or optometrist, says Colby. "Most people will find that around the age of 40 they start needing reading glasses, and that's often a good time to go in and get a check of your eye health," she says. "Then once you get to be about 50, every year is good." The exception: If you have a family history of eye disease, see a doctor sooner for a baseline visit.

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