An optician once told me that our eyes are only designed to last about 40 years – the maximum lifespan of our ancestral forebears – and after that they’re on borrowed time. So if we hope to live well into our eighties, nineties (and beyond?!) we need to focus (as it were) on looking after our eyes. Particularly now, when so much of our lives are on-screen and chances to rest our eyes are reduced. The good news is that there are several simple steps we can take each day to protect our eyes as we get older.
After a lot of reading and research, I’ve started taking an astaxanthin supplement. It’s an oceanic carotenoid found in krill: astaxanthin’s deep coral colour is what makes flamingos pink and salmon red. Research shows it’s also very good for our eyes. Krill oil contains the DHA and EPA essential fatty acids (EFAs) needed for cognitive health as we get older, but also contains a phospholipid which makes it easier for fatty acids to cross the blood-brain and blood-retinal barriers. This means those EFAs can get to work where they are needed most. Research published last year revealed that astaxanthin reduces eye fatigue, alleviates eye strain, improves mitochondrial function (the ‘batteries’ of our cells) and reduces oxidative stress. You could eat a lot of wild salmon (about one and a half portions each day) – or a flamingo, presumably – to get your daily dose of astaxanthin, but supplements are made from rather more sustainable algae, grown in aquiculture conditions.
EAT FOR YOUR EYES
The carotenoid lutein is a powerful antioxidant, crucial for eye health. It’s found in green leafy vegetables, sweetcorn is also an extremely good source. It protects the macula from oxidative damage and helps absorbs the blue light that gleams at us from our screens. Annabel wrote a detailed post about lutein last year, with a delicious summer soup recipe to go with it. Anthocyanins, found in dark-coloured fruits like blueberries are also crucial eye-boosting anti-oxidants. Blackcurrants are a particularly potent source. I’m not a huge fan of blackcurrants, to be honest, but Annabel loves them, and one of our neighbours has a front garden full of them! There’s more about blackcurrants – and a recipe – here. And we need regular essential fatty acids for eye health as well as astaxanthin. Oily fish is the best source – see today’s recipe for mackerel below.
LIE BACK AND THINK OF EYE HEALTH
Over 40, 40% of people suffer from dry eye, which is – of course – exacerbated by screen usage. Astaxanthin can help, as can massage and resting our eyes. I bought, from my optician, a small pillow filled with flax seed (I think it cost around £12), I heat it in the microwave for 30 seconds and then lie down with it across my eyes for about 10 minutes. It’s incredibly relaxing – sometimes I listen to a meditation at the same time (does that mean I’m multitasking my relaxation??). Then I gently massage around my eyes to release the oil ducts (my optician showed me how to do this – check with yours first). A simpler way of doing this is to cup your eyes with your palms for 30 seconds then gently massage around your eyes and temples to release tension.
SCAN THE HORIZON
For your eyes to see close work on a screen or phone, their muscles have to tense up. Holding the muscles in this position for a long time, causes strain, tension, and ultimately will affect your distance vision. Counteract this by taking time each day to scan the horizon. Find a spot where you can actually see some distance away and start by looking as far to the right as you can, without moving your head. Then, slowly trace the horizon to the left, still without moving your neck or head. This is a great stretch for your eye muscles. You can also try looking as far down as you can, and then look up towards the sky.
YOUR INVITATION TO THE AGE-WELL PLAN BOOK LAUNCH!
I’ll be sharing my best-ever strategies for healthy longevity at a free online webinar on Thursday September 3rdat 7pm BST via Zoom. From the vitamin I load up on every day to how I’ve made my home an age-well haven, and from work outs that take no time to my favourite sleep secrets, I’ll reveal how you can create an age-well future. September 3rd is publication day for The Age-Well Plan, so it’s a lovely chance to celebrate together! The new book is the follow up to The Age-Well Project, giving you a simple day-by-day, step-by-step, guide to changing the way you age.
I’ll be giving away copies of The Age-Well Plan, one-to-one coaching sessions with me, an Age-Well meal plan and other goodies too, so join me there!
BAKED MACKEREL WITH RHUBARB RELISH serves 4
- 4 small mackerel, cleaned and gutted
For the relish:
- 200g rhubarb, cut into 3cm chunks
- Juice of 2 oranges, zest of 1
- 2 cloves garlic, finely grated
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 4 tbs olive oil
- 1 tbs brown sugar
Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
Mix the juice, oil, spices and garlic in a small bowl and season well. Lay the rhubarb chunks in a small baking dish, making sure they fit snugly. Sprinkle over the sugar and add half the juice mix. Toss to coat.
Line a large baking dish or tray with greaseproof paper and place the mackerel on top. Pour over the remaining juice mix. Bake both the rhubarb and the mackerel in the oven for approx. 20 mins (depending on the size of your fish) until the fish is opaque all the way to the bone. Stir the relish well when it comes out of the oven and serve alongside the fish.