Doc's Tips for Lifelong Sight

One evening, in the 1990s, Jorge Spielmann invited several close friends to an unusual dinner party.

As his guests gathered at the table, Spielmann asked them all to don blindfolds for the meal... Spielmann was himself blind and no stranger to what is now known as "dark dining"...

But his guests were all sighted people and were, of course, conditioned to see what they were eating. At Spielmann's dinner, guests had to avoid knocking over wine glasses and missing their mouths while going for bites of food.

Despite everyone fumbling around the table, the party was a hit... The guests reported that their food smelled and tasted better...

In 1999, he opened Blindekuh – "Blind Man's Bluff" – in Zurich. His restaurant is still open today with excellent customer reviews. And restaurants all over the world participate in "dark dining" – where customers dine in complete darkness.

Enhancing your other senses creates new neurological pathways in your brain. And new pathways in the brain mean enhanced communication and connectivity...

As we age, our senses tend to decline. But when we give our senses a boost by doing mindful or novel activities – like dark dining – we are strengthening the communication pathways in our brains by way of something called neuroplasticity.

Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to reorganize its synaptic (neural) connections. For instance, you may experience a stroke and lose the ability to use your left arm and leg. But with neuroplasticity, you can relearn how to use these appendages by forming new neural connections and communication pathways...

Studies show that neuroplasticity is closely tied to our quality of life and the amount of life we spend free from illness and injury – otherwise known as our healthspans.

But luckily, it's easy (and perhaps fun) to keep our senses sharp and increase our healthspans... and that is great news because increasing our neuroplasticity as we age is critical...

Well-tuned senses will help you avoid things like dementia, depression, and isolation. So today I'm going to share how to put one of your senses – sight – through boot camp...

Doc's Drills for Seeing

Sight has a profound impact on your experience of life. Your vision allows you to get around easily and move independently by helping you avoid running into things and showing you everything along the way. Sight protects you from getting hurt and allows you to take care of yourself with ease. You're able to see your toothbrush and toothpaste at the sink in the morning, so you know exactly where and how to reach for them.

Turns out, more than 3 in 5 Americans aged 40 and up have vision problems. Cataracts are associated with a higher risk of bone problems, like osteoporosis and experiencing bone fractures.

And studies show that vision loss leads to a lower quality of life and a significant loss of independence. When you're suddenly unable to see like you once did, it's easy to understand how that could be isolating.

In order to improve your eyesight, I have a few tricks for you to try...

1. Feed your eyes nourishment.

Eyes thrive on a well-balanced diet. Make sure your diet includes plenty of vitamins A, C, and E, which sharpen your ability to see. Antioxidants like beta-carotene and lutein help protect your eyes from sun damage. And omega-3 fatty acids help keep your eyes lubricated.

A 2021 study found that people with higher levels of zinc and carotenoids in their diets had the most improvement in visual acuity. Reach for whole foods and brightly colored fruits and vegetables for these nutrients.

Here are a number of great choices to fill your plate with... avocado, broccoli, corn, orange bell peppers, almonds, fatty fish, watermelon, cantaloupe, blueberries, carrots, kale, pink grapefruit, legumes, spinach, kiwis, mangos, tomatoes, onions, apples, and whole-wheat pasta.

2. Keep your eyes moist and in good shape.

Drinking plenty of water and other fluids, using non-preserved, thick gel eyedrops at night for dryness, and taking good care of your contacts (not sleeping in them or using them past their recommended life) will help your eyes perform at their best. Additionally, you can strengthen the muscles in and around your eyes by doing a few easy exercises each day:

  • Roll your eyes around, looking up, then to the side, then down, then to the other side. Repeat this move 15 times.
  • Focus on an item in your hands. Move the item close to your face and then far away. Keep your eyes focused the entire time. Place the object down and walk away from it and then back to it, still maintaining focus throughout the exercise. Do what I do and look off in the distance for 15 seconds (this uses the muscles around the lens) and then look at your hands up close for 15 seconds (this relaxes the muscles) repeatedly for 10 to 20 times every day. I still don't wear glasses.
  • Stand facing a wall and use your peripheral vision to identify objects to your left and to your right, without moving your head. Repeat this move every few days until your field of vision expands.

3. Get choosy about the light around you.

Harsh fluorescent lights in your office and blue-light rays from your phone and computer could damage your eyes over time. And studies show that – depending on the intensity – exposure to blue light can damage the structures of your eyes.

Be sure to look outside throughout the day, forcing your eyes to take in natural lighting. Wear sunglasses on particularly bright, sunny days. Also, researchers in Japan have shown that wearing blue-light-filtering glasses for two hours before bedtime improved sleep quality for people who were on their devices before hitting the sack.

Once the sun goes down, the normal human rhythm from wakefulness to sleep kicks in. Blue light blocks this process, stopping the body's production of a critical health hormone called melatonin. Without melatonin, you're almost guaranteed a poor night's sleep.

What We're Reading...

Here's to our health, wealth, and a great retirement,

Dr. David Eifrig and the Health & Wealth Bulletin Research Team
October 5, 2023