Better Habits Today, Better Vision Tomorrow

The Right Habits Enhance a Full Visual Lifestyle

Be honest with yourself.  If I asked for a list of everything you ate last week, would you be embarrassed to show me?  Or if I asked when you had your last physical, would you be ashamed to tell me?  If so, why are you eating things that you’d be embarrassed to tell your eye doctor (or any doctor, for that matter)?  Why are you putting off such an important matter as personal health?  It’s no secret that proper health and nutrition support and maintain body systems, and the eyes are no exception.  So how are you doing?

Girl Eating Fruit

freeimages/januszek

 

I’ll Do Whatever It Takes, Doc…Except Change My Habits

When I discuss the habits needed to maintain vision and eye health, many patients respond with a strange paradox.  Most people want more than anything to preserve their good vision, but many refuse to do what’s needed. Worse, many of these people know they have eye diseases that threaten their vision.  Most patients in both categories will declare a keen interest in doing anything they can to maintain good vision.  Often, the conversation goes like this:

“Doctor Andy, I will do anything to keep my eyes healthy and preserve my vision.”

I will then outline a set of proven medical treatments, lifestyle changes, and materials needed to do just that.  And then the reply comes:

“Well, I can’t do that.”

We’re Creatures of Habit, and We Need to Make a Habit of Improving Ourselves

Why would anyone go to a doctor for help and then immediately reject a simple solution to a problem?  For one, it’s not easy to implement a new habit or set of habits.  For example, when I mention eating six to eight servings per day of colorful fruits and vegetables, I get a wide range of responses.  Some people will tell me they already do that.  Others may say “if it doesn’t come in a fast food bag, I don’t eat it.”  Naturally, the person with the first response will be more receptive to diet and lifestyle changes than the second.

Most people are very interested in good vision and eye health, but for some the obstacle of change can appear too big to overcome.  Indeed, many patients simply “shut down” during an exam; they’re so distracted by the thought of changing habits they quit listening.

There’s No Magic Pill for Good Vision

Don’t get me wrong.  There are a wealth of medications, diagnostic tests, treatments, and products that can improve our visual lifestyles.  However, none of these should replace a foundation of proper health, eye, and vision care.

There are several reasons people may be disappointed when they hear simple, habitual solutions for maintaining good vision and eye health and treating vision problems.  Don’t get caught by these.  While they may seem legitimate, each challenge can be overcome.  Here’s the list:

  • It’s too hard: most adults know their habits are ingrained and changing them will be a challenge
  • It’s too easy: “it can’t be that simple, surely there’s a catch”
  • We’ve heard it before: the benefits of health and nutrition are no secret
  • We haven’t heard it before: I still have patients who have never made the connection between good habits and a healthy body and eyes
  • We want an easy fix: “can’t I just have a pill, or maybe new glasses?”
  • We don’t understand: most people haven’t studied the complexities of the visual systems
  • We see well enough, for now: as a doctor, one of the most challenging things I do is convince a patient with good vision to change his or her lifestyle

We must realize we are creatures of habit.  So there is no such thing as “stopping” a poor habit.  It must be replaced with a good one.  And, in order to replace poor habits with good ones we will have to put forth some effort.  The sooner we come to terms with this idea, the sooner we can get started living the visual lifestyle.

Question: what was the hardest habit you had to replace and how did you do it?  Feel free to leave a comment, or share on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Do This Before You Get An Eye Exam

Don’t Overlook This Important Prerequisite to Living the Visual Lifestyle

How long has it been since you had a complete physical?  If you had one recently, how did you do?  I know, I know.  For some people the appeal of having a physical ranks right up there with having a tax audit.  But if you’re going to live a full visual lifestyle, body health is where you need to start.

Stethoscope

If you think you don’t need a physical because you believe you’re healthy, you should seriously reconsider.  At the very least, you’ll be given a clean bill of health and some added peace of mind.  More importantly, if any health issues exist your health care professional can explore lifestyle changes and treatments with you.  So get a physical, even if you’re afraid of what you might discover about your health.  Check out this post for similar ideas about skipping eye care because you believe you see well.

Why Does My Vision Get Blurry and Then Clear Up Again?

Have you ever had temporary blurry vision?  I’m talking about the kind of blurry vision that comes and goes.  The kind that surprises you.  The kind that makes you give up reading or pull over to the side of the road while it passes.  I have a lot of patients that come to see me with these types of problems, and many of them are shocked when I tell them their blurry vision is not due to their eyes.

If the Eyes Are Windows to the Soul, They’re Also Windows to the Body

Our eye health and visual health is closely tied to our overall health.  Many people suffering from temporary blurry vision are experiencing signs of body diseases such as diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), and migraines.  There are many other body ailments that can cause vision problems, and some of them are quite serious.  Worse, the medications used to treat these illnesses can also cause a host of visual symptoms.

So, when it comes to living a full visual lifestyle, it pays to be healthy.  Not to mention the many other ways being healthy enhances your overall lifestyle.

For example, here are some eye diseases and conditions that are directly or indirectly linked to overall body health:

  • Macular degeneration
  • Glaucoma
  • Cataracts
  • Dry eyes
  • Diabetic retinopathy
  • Light sensitivity
  • Night blindness

And, here are some body diseases and conditions that can have a direct effect on the eyes and vision:

  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Thyroid conditions
  • Migraines
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Cancer

Finally, here are some general medications with known eye and vision side effects:

  • Cancer medications
  • Steroids
  • Acne medications
  • Antihistamines
  • Appetite suppressants
  • Thyroid medication
  • Antibiotics
  • Antidepressants

The lists above are by no means complete.  In fact, they barely scratch the surface.

Many of my patients are surprised when I tell them how much their overall body health and medications can affect their eye health and vision.  There is no question: maintaining optimal body health is an essential first step in maintaining eye health and living a full visual lifestyle.  Now, about that physical…

Question: When was your last physical?  If it’s been a long time, what’s keeping you?

You Can't Be Living the Visual Lifestyle if You Don't Know What It Is

Let’s face it.  Unless you have an eye disease or your vision is so poor that it’s a daily challenge, you don’t think about your eyes that much.  You probably think about your visual lifestyle even less.  That is, if you even know what it means to live the visual lifestyle.  If you don’t, don’t worry.  You’re in good company, especially if you’re one of the 67 million adults in the U.S. who haven’t had an eye exam in over two years.

Eyes 2

vierdrie via freeimages.com

Do Your Teeth Work?

Sometimes I think people are much more aware of their teeth than their eyes.  I once heard my son’s friend (ten years old) say, “I’ve never been to the eye doctor because I’ve always been able to see.”  I asked him, “Do your teeth work?”

Naturally, he said yes.

“Do you still go to the dentist?”

“Sure,” he replied.  And after a few moments, “Oh, I get it.”

I use this approach often, and I’m always surprised when people believe that because they see well, they don’t need eye care.  Like teeth and their function, who wouldn’t want to preserve their eyes and vision?  Indeed, in survey after survey (here’s one of many) Americans rank blindness as one of their top fears, often above cancer.  Why live in fear of blindness when there are concrete steps you can take to greatly increase your chances of ensuring clear, comfortable vision?

Living the Visual Lifestyle by Definition

Although the concept of living the visual lifestyle is simple, it will take some time to unpack.  To begin with, here’s a good definition:

The visual lifestyle is a set of habits, accessories, and attitudes used by people who recognize vision as life’s most precious and fragile gift, and who are passionate about preserving, enhancing, and celebrating it to the fullest.

And, here are the fundamental elements of living the visual lifestyle:

  • Health and Safety
    • Overall health and safety
    • Eye health
    • Eye safety
  • Technology
    • Frames, lenses, contacts, medical equipment
    • Eye and vision care products
    • Lifestyle products
  • Awareness
    • Gratitude
    • Appreciation
    • Curiosity
    • Celebration

I have helped tens of thousands of patients achieve and maintain clear, comfortable vision and enhance their visual lifestyle.  Going forward, I hope to help many more readers do the same.

Now, how about you?  Like most Americans, do you fear blindness?  Why or why not?  Please feel free to leave a comment, and check back often as we explore the fundamental elements of living the visual lifestyle.