Did you know that 86 per cent of Australians say that sight is their most valued sense, with the figure increasing to 93 per cent for those over 55 years of age?
In fact, according to figures obtained by the Australian and New Zealand Eye Foundation (ANZEF), 60 per cent of Australians say the fear of going blind is worse than the fear of having a heart attack or losing a limb.
More than 453,000 people are blind or vision impaired in Australia, with the prevalence being three times more for Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous.
The good news is that around 90 per cent of blindness and vision impairment in all Australians is preventable or treatable if detected early.
And yet, 28 per cent of Australians don't get their eyes tested regularly (every two years), and 6 per cent have never had an eye test.
This July - as it has done since 2018 - ANZEF holds its annual national eye health awareness program, known as JulEye.
ANZEF is the philanthropic and benevolent arm of the Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists.
This year, the focus is on the detrimental impacts of alcohol on eye health, prompted by Australia's alcohol consumption spiking during the pandemic.
Dr John Kennedy, a RANZCO Fellow and chairman of its ANZEF Committee, said JulEye was about getting the community to think about and look after their sight.
It aims to raise community awareness of eye health issues; raise funding for research projects into the causes and cures of vision impairment and blindness, and support international development projects whose goals are aligned with those of ANZEF.
Dr Kennedy said it was also important to remember that our eyes can help indicate health issues in other parts of the body that might otherwise go undetected.
"People with vision problems are more likely to have diabetes, poor hearing, heart problems, high blood pressure, lower back pain and stroke, as well as have increased risk for falls, injury and depression," he said.
"So, during JulEye, we are asking people to get their eyes tested, and don't be a blind drunk!"
Try these tips for healthy outlook
The National Institute on Ageing (USA) offers the following tips to maintain healthy eyes.
- Wear sunglasses that block ultraviolet (UV) radiation and a wide-brimmed hat when you are outdoors.
- Quit smoking, which increases the risk of eye diseases.
- Eat nutritious foods that support eye health, such as those with antioxidants, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins C and E and minerals like zinc and selenium.
- Be physically active and maintain a healthy weight. Exercising will help prevent diabetes, which can lead to blindness.
- Reduce high blood pressure, which can contribute to eye problems.
- When focused on a computer or a single object, reduce eye strain by looking away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds.