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It’s Save Your Vision Month, which the American Optometric Association (AOA) decrees as the perfect time to bring awareness to the importance of good vision, healthy eyes and steps you can take to achieve both.

Did you know that more than 40 million Americans are at risk for reduced vision and potentially even blindness because of age-related diseases? Did you know that just because you have good visual acuity and can see well, it doesn’t necessarily mean your eyes are healthy?

The best way to ensure that you’re seeing your best with healthy, well-functioning eyes is to make an annual appointment with your optometrist for a comprehensive vision exam. Your optometrist will perform a thorough examination and evaluate your eyes with a 360-degree approach to make sure you’re healthy.

But what can you do during the other 364 days of the year to make sure your eyes stay healthy? Here are 7 ways to save your vision:

  1. Buy and wear high-quality sunglasses. Not only do they look great, but quality sunglasses that protect against at least 99% of the sun’s damaging UV-A and UV-B rays protect your eyes. Cumulative, ongoing exposure to the sun’s UV rays—which are present on the Earth’s surface 365 days a year—can cause vision-destroying conditions including macular degeneration, cataracts, issues with the conjunctiva and negative impact on both the cornea and your eye’s tear film. The solution? Prevent UV eye damage by wearing your sunglasses every day, every time you go outside.
  2. Exercise regularly. It’s important for so many different reasons, and your eyes are one of them. Your eyes need healthy blood circulation and oxygen to fuel good vision. Exercise—anything that gets your heart rate up and the blood pumping from a brisk walk to a run or a Zumba class—benefits your eyes because it promotes good circulation.
  3. Quit using tobacco products. Because they can cause the opposite effect from exercise–reducing blood flow and impairing blood oxygenation–tobacco products have negative consequences on many of your body’s organs, including the eye. Stop smoking! Whether you use nicotine patches, gum or lozenges or try one of the four medication types that can help, now’s the time to quit for a healthier “future you.”
  4. Wear safety goggles and protective eyewear when it’s called for. Whether you’re at home, outside or at work, there are a multitude of different situations where you should wear protective eyewear to protect your eyes from dangerous projectiles and fumes. With more than 1,000 daily eye injuries in workplaces nationwide, 40,000 sports-related injuries to the eye and 125,000 eye injuries occurring in homes each year, about 90% of these potentially devastating eye injuries could be prevented by wearing appropriate safety goggles and protective eyewear.
  5. Contact lens care counts. Are you abusing your eyes by sleeping in contact lenses not meant for that purpose, or wearing your lenses for prolonged periods? These behaviors can result in severe irritation such as corneal ulcers that may cause permanent vision damage. There’s a reason your optometrist recommends a certain length of wear and teaches proper lens hygiene. Ask your optometrist about daily disposable contact lenses to help prevent many of these issues.
  6. Love those leafy greens! Yes, Leafy green veggies are a key to good eye health. Vitamins and micronutrients are plentiful in fruits and vegetables including broccoli, kale and spinach. Eat the rainbow of colors and you’ll eat your way to proper nutrition―which benefits your eyes.
  7. Ditch the digital device. Eye strain is an issue in our modern lives, and it’s impacting the human race like never before due to the enormous amount of time we spend staring into tiny digital devices. Laptops, computer screens, tablets, e-readers, cell phones―they all cause eye strain when used too much. Practice the 20/20/20 rule―about every 20 minutes, focus your eyes on something that’s 20 feet away for a 20-second break from your digital device. That simple practice can limit eye strain and improve your ability to see your best!

And of course, another important way to Save Your Vision is to make and keep your annual comprehensive eye exam appointment with your optometrist. We can’t wait to see you!