The Brainy Side of Being Nearsighted

couple at coffee shop, both wearing glasses

Next time you feel stupid for doing something embarrassing without your glasses, be comforted by this: Having myopia (that is, being nearsighted) may actually mean that you’re smarter than most – or at least better educated.

Results from the Gutenberg Health Study suggest that vision seems to decline as education increases. So the more schooling a person has, the more likely he or is she to be nearsighted. While all those years of squinting into your textbook may have boosted your brainpower, your strained eyes may have paid the price.

German researchers looked at questionnaires answered by 4,685 respondents between the ages of 35 and 74 and discovered that nearsightedness affected 60% of those who graduated after 13 years of school, 42% of those who studied for 10 years, and 27% who finished after nine years.

More and more experts agree that changes in our lifestyles have lead to more time spent indoors, increased reading and higher use of technology – all which have contributed to the increase of myopia. And while hitting the books is encouraged, so is protecting your vision.

Ways to Save Your Eyesight

Your risk of nearsightedness has a lot to do with your genes, but there are things you can do to help avoid it. Check out these five simple tactics to spare your eyes from further damage:

  1. Spend more time outside.  Researchers have found that a lack of sunlight may contribute to nearsightedness – and that 10-14 hours of exposure per week can prevent it.  So consider soaking up some sunshine during your study breaks or exercising outside to get your daily dose of fresh air.
  2. Fend off computer eyestrain. Staring at a computer screen can take a toll on your eyes.  Next time you’re using a computer for that class project, take a break every 15 minutes and focus your eyesight on something else to give your eyes a rest.
  3. Eat smart. As a general rule to keep your eyes strong, eat a balanced diet. And remember, carrots aren’t the only veggies that are good for your eyes. Salmon, tuna, eggs, nuts and beans are vision-boosters, too.
  4. Wear contacts. Some research suggests that, for some people, swapping out glasses for contacts may actually slow the progression of nearsightedness. So if you’ve always worn glasses, try seeing if the switch to contacts is right for you. 
  5. Consider other causes. Nearsightedness may be a sign of blood sugar problems (which can lead to diabetes) or an early sign of a cataract. Talk to your optometrist if you start experiencing any myopia symptoms to determine what may be causing your vision problems.

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