It’s a new year, and we’ve all resolved to do better by ourselves. This year is the year we’ll all cut back on the junk food, take that vacation we’ve been planning, and finally start getting the most out of those pricey gym memberships.

Personal health is a common New Year’s resolution. We all want to live better, but eye health is often overlooked when resolution time comes around. Your eyes are vital to your wellbeing; fortunately, protecting them is relatively simple. If you’re looking to improve your eye health in 2019, or just to protect the healthy eyes you already have, then consider these lifestyle changes.

Stop Smoking

Quitting smoking is a big health booster in a lot of ways. Stopping smoking lowers your risk of cancers and lung problems, but it also saves your eyes. Smoking can lead to premature macular degeneration. In fact, it increases your odds of developing the disease by 400 percent. Smoking also hastens the arrival of cataracts and damages your optic nerve. Overall, smoking decreases your eye health and vision. If left untreated, many of these eye diseases can lead to blindness.

Even if you escape the truly frightening eye diseases that smoking can cause, you’re still in for a rough time. Smoking irritates the eyes, making them uncomfortable and red. Laying off the cigarettes will have you see an almost immediate improvement in your dry eyes.

Remember your sunglasses

We all know UV rays can damage your skin, but did you know they’re harmful to your eyes, as well? Sunglasses aren’t just for comfort and style, they actually serve a very important purpose. Donning sunglasses with adequate UV protection can save your eyes a lot of stress. Overexposure to UV rays can actually burn your cornea, worsen cataracts or in some cases cause skin cancer on you eyelids (your eyelids are covered with thin, vulnerable skin that doesn’t often get covered by sunscreen).

Keep a pair of spare sunglasses in your bag or purse. Then pop them on whenever you’re spending a significant amount of time outside. Even overcast days can still be rife with UV rays. You don’t have to be staring at the unblocked sun to be at risk. Surfaces like cement or even the snowy ground can reflect UV rays.

Remember that not all sunglasses are created equal, so invest in a good pair. Your sunglasses need to block out 99 to 100 percent of UV rays to be truly useful. A cheap pair from the dollar store probably won’t cut it. Consider shopping from a professional glasses store like 39DollarGlasses, instead.

Make an eye-healthy snack menu

We’ve all heard that carrots are good for your eyes, but it’s really fruits and vegetables in general that help boost eye health. Dark, leafy greens are another eye-healthy snack. It’s the vitamin A in these foods that your eyes need. Omega-3 fatty acids have also been shown to help maintain healthy eyes. While no food will actually improve your vision, eye-healthy foods can keep your vision at its best and stave off any vision-damaging diseases.

Upgrade your lenses

The dangers of blue light aren’t a new concern, but we’re starting to understand now just what kinds of problems this light can cause and why. Blue light occurs naturally but it is also a component of synthetic light from computer and phone screens. In this digital age, we are all being exposed to more blue light than is normal.

This unnatural level of light exposure can lead to eye strain and increase the risk of macular degeneration. It also has more immediate effects on our lives, especially at night. If you use electronic devices in the dark, your brain may not realize that it is night. Normally our brains register darkness and release melatonin, helping us sleep. But if you’re still staring at a screen after the sun has gone down, your brain may register the blue light as a signal that it is still daytime, thus disrupting your natural sleep cycle and making it more difficult to obtain a good night’s rest.

Schedule your eye exam

You should be having a yearly eye exam even if you have great health and perfect vision. There are a lot of yearly or biannual doctor visits that we all have to keep juggling, and unfortunately eye exams are one that commonly falls to the wayside. But eye exams are just as important as that dental cleaning you suffer through every six months. Routine eye exams are the first line of defense against most degenerative eye problems. Your doctor will be able to catch any issues as soon as they present. Most insurance providers pay for one exam a year. So if you’ve fallen off the radar of your local optometrist, pick up the phone and get back on their roster right away.

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