This past week, Professor Andrew Huberman interviewed Jeffrey Goldberg, MD, Ph.D. on the Huberman Podcast on the topic of eye health. Dr Goldberg is a professor and chair of the Department of Ophthalmology at the Byers Eye Institute at Stanford University. Goldberg’s clinical and research efforts focus on retinal and optic nerve diseases like glaucoma. It further centers on discovering stem cell and nanotechnology treatments to cure blindness.
Here are 12 key highlights and insights from this fascinating discussion between two leading experts in the field of vision research and health
Experts on Eye Health
Andrew Huberman is a professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology at Stanford School of Medicine. He is also the founder of the Huberman Podcast, one of the most popular science-based wellness podcasts globally. The members of Team Longevity are great fans of the Huberman Podcast. It brings science-based facts and health insights into everyday homes and lives in an understandable and exciting manner. At the same time, Huberman is a brilliant commentator who engages easily and simply on far-reaching subjects across the longevity spectrum.
During the podcast, the two specialists discussed how to maintain and improve eye health throughout your life. They further examined the advantages and disadvantages of corrective lenses. Including if you should wear “readers”. They also discussed the use and risks of contact lenses, considerations for LASIK eye surgery, floaters, dry eye, the importance of sunlight and UV protection, and specific exercises to improve eye and vision health.
We all lose our vision as we age, some sooner than others
Dr. Goldberg also explained age-related conditions: cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, and diabetic retinopathy. Lastly, he focused on behavioral and supplementation-based, prescription and surgical tools used to promote eye health.
In this blog post, we have summarised some of the key highlights of the interview for Longevity readers. The Podcast provided essential tools for people of any age and background to maintain eye health and offset vision loss.
12 key highlights from the Huberman podcast on eye health
In this blog, we have summarised some of the most practical observations for your interest from this podcast. Please note that the podcast was far more detailed in the information provided. Hence we have also included a link to the podcast in the references below, so you can listen to the full details. In addition, we recommend you subscribe to the Huberman Podcast if you are interested in your health and longevity.
1. What you need to know about eye safety, protection, and eye hygiene
Some of the dos and some of the don’ts for eye health. Wearing eye goggles when working outside in the garden or in a workshop is crucial to protect the eyes from damage. Anyone who does not take this precaution is at risk for serious eye injury. This can often only be addressed with surgery, as the natural eye healing processes are not infinite. Eye protection and protection against eye trauma are vital.
Eye hygiene is just as important. Our tears contain enzymes that help break down bacteria and bacterial toxins. As a result, washing the eyes is not necessary. The eyelids and eyelashes, however, can be another story. Especially as we age, because our skin breaks down a little differently. Some people can develop skin bits that accumulate on the eyelashes. To address issues like this, consider lightly cleaning your eyelashes with baby shampoo once or twice a day.
If you have something stuck in your eye, your ideal eye wash will be a sterile saline solution with no chemicals or preservatives. Artificial teardrops are also a good option.
2. UV Protection & Cataracts,‘’Blue Blockers’’
As of late, there have been many questions about blue lights and how they affect us and our eyes. If you want your melatonin production to be normal and you want to sleep well, it is essential to avoid bright lights of any wavelength late at night. The reason is, if you are under lastingly bright lights, it’s going to suppress your melatonin production.
Profound UV light can be damaging to the retina. Therefore, blocking this UV light is vital and should be standard in any pair of eyeglasses. Blue blockers, however, have become very popular as of late. Due to the pandemic, lots of people began working from home and in front of computers for hours at a time.
They grew fond of blue blockers in being able to protect their eyes from the light emitted by a computer screen. However, Jeffrey Goldberg states that there is no data that wearing blue light glasses is helpful in any way. We may want as much bright light as we can safely tolerate during the day, ideally from sunlight, to set our circadian rhythm.
Transition lenses are also great because they are clear, except if you are out in the sunlight, they will turn dark. A chemical reaction happens in the glasses due to UV wavelengths, which turn them from clear to dark.
3. Light Sensitivity & Eye Colour
There is uncertainty about whether this topic has been formally studied. It is understood that if you have blue or light-colored eyes, you are likely to have more sensitivity to the sunlight. There is a difference in the iris muscles that constrict and dilate in response to light.
When you get your eyes dilated at your eye exam, blue eyes and light-coloured eyes react differently to the dilation. The dilation is going to last for six to eight hours. In brown eyes, on the other hand, this usually lasts one to four hours.
There are clear biological differences between the irises and their muscles and possibly the nerves that feed those muscles between light eyes and darker eyes.
4. Vision Loss: Refractive Error & Cataracts
The major causes of vision loss will differ where you are in the world. But the number one cause of low vision is refractive error. This is a major error, but it is fundamentally correctible. Basically, the issue is affordability and access, in that individuals who need glasses, cannot always get them, and this is particularly true in some developing countries.
The next most common cause of vision loss is cataracts. Cataracts cause blurring of the eyes due to the aging of the lens. Cataracts are a normal part of the aging process. The problem is when people cannot access the surgery needed to remove the cataract.
Worldwide there are not enough cataract surgeons. The machinery or the lenses cost too much money in developing countries to get out to the number of people who need them.
Again, the problem is the access to the care needed by so many people. A cataract is a reversible and easily treatable problem. It is number two on the list of causes of vision loss in the world because we don’t have enough access to care.
5. Smoking, & Vaping, Cannabis & Eye Pressure
Smoking and vaping are horrible for your body as well as your eyes. Smoking is a terrible idea for macular degeneration and glaucoma. It is important that you don’t smoke, eat healthily, take multivitamins, and exercise regularly. These are all things that are good for your cardiovascular system and are going to be good for your eyes in general.
Cannabis is an interesting topic. Research indicates that it can lower eye pressure, which may undermine the progression of glaucoma. There are two problems, however. The first is the fact that you are only getting the benefits of lowering eye pressure when you are experiencing the effects of the drug.
The second problem is smoking cannabis is detrimental to your lungs as well as your eyes. This is because the smoke from cannabis and cigarettes causes inflammation and dries out your eyes.
6. Eye Pressure & Sleep Position
It is a fact that your eye pressure is higher at night. For someone who has glaucoma, it may be beneficial to sleep in a certain position to lower your eye pressure. There have been many studies done on whether the side you sleep on has a higher or lower pressure.
Jeffrey Goldberg expressed that while it probably doesn’t matter which side you sleep on, it may be beneficial to sleep with a few pillows under your head to achieve a 30-degree angle. However, he also states that it is very important that the patient suffering from glaucoma should be getting a well-rested sleep.
If the 30-degree angle interferes with this, is it best to not interrupt their normal sleeping habits.
I’m sure every person reading this can relate to the frustration and annoyance of “floaters”. If you haven’t experienced having floaters, which is highly unlikely, they can be semi-translucent, grey, or black specks in your vision that float about when you move your eyes. This can be frustrating to experience but, thankfully, perfectly normal.
These floaters tend to go away on their own. When we are born, the middle of the eye is filled with a jelly-like substance, not a fluid, filled with collagen fibers. As we age, those different fibers and gels shrink and contract, and they peel off the back of the retina. It can pull off tiny retinal bits that are not important to your vision but tissue-like bits, and we perceive those as floaters.
8. Eye Twitching
Twitching of the eye is something that many people complain about when they are either going through a stressful period or sleep deprived. Whatever the situation, it’s interesting to know what exactly is happening to the nerves and muscles and what it means.
You’ll be pleased to know that most of the time, it just comes down to being a bad nerve ending. Hundreds and thousands of nerve cells feed your eyelid, it’s the ones controlling the muscles that can lead to a twitch. And it may typically happen over the course of a couple of months, intermittently, some days more or sometimes less, and then it will stop. Either the never cell reconnects properly, or the nerve dies.
9. Glaucoma and Vitamin B3 Supplementation
A big eye brewing in the glaucoma field right now are high doses of vitamin B3. It’s in the NAD synthesis pathway and is one of the oxidative stress regulators and energy regulators, therefore a very critical molecule in the metabolism of our cells.
There is very strong evidence in preclinical models that manipulating this pathway increases this pathway and could be protective in glaucoma or other optic neuropathy, optic nerve degenerative diseases. The clinical trials looked at both the visual performance and the other looking at the electrical signals in the eye called electroretinograms. In both trials, a high dose of vitamin B3 was found to be very safe.
Vitamin B3 was shown to improve on the short-term retinal function measured either in visual field testing or in an electroretinogram. A high dose of vitamin B3 might be a great approach to helping protect the nerves of glaucoma, and so over the next year or two, scientists expect to receive more data.
10. 20/20 Vision; Visual Acuity
20/20 vision, can it be defined? What does it mean? We define almost everything we do based on an average, healthy adult. 20/20 vision means that you can read the smallest letters 20 feet away.
Vision can be determined like this is different levels, someone may have worse than 20/20 vision, maybe you’ve got 20/25 vision, 20/40 vision, or maybe you have 20/200 vision which means you can read at 20 feet what a normal person could read at 200 feet, which means you’ve got very limited lower vision.
However, it is possible for people to have vision that is better than 20/20, like 20/15 or even 20/10.
11. Contact Lenses: Use, Risks & Aging
Using the run of the mill prescription contact lenses will change the tear dynamics on the surface of your eye, and they will decrease the oxygen diffusion onto the surface of the eye. However, using contacts when you are younger will not greatly impact tear dynamics or oxygen diffusion. However, as we begin to age, this will begin to affect the eyes and the level of eye dryness experienced.
When this starts to happen, you may want to consider how often you wear contacts and slowly start to lessen the wear this way you will not experience negative effects.
The advantage of wearing contact lenses over glasses purely based on improving your vision comes down to the different elements of the shape of your eye that need to be corrected. Higher order aberrations in your corneas and in the clear window on the front of the eye or in the lens of the eye that are focusing the light that a glasses prescription can’t correct. But if you have a nice smooth contact lens at the front of the eye, it can be corrected. Therefore, you will experience having a higher quality of vision wearing contacts over glasses.
What are the risks of wearing contact lenses?
There are very few risks of wearing contacts but cleaning your contact lenses properly is very important, and if not done so, this may result in a corneal infection. This condition, even when treated, may leave you with corneal scarring and even blurring vision.
It is recommended to use daily contacts only, as they are safer for your eyes, but this will result in more plastic waste, which should be taken into consideration.
Never sleep with your contacts in, as when your eyes are closed, there is even less oxygen to the surface of the eyes. To our bodies and the surface of our eyes, the most infectious type of bacteria is the kind that doesn’t like oxygen. As a result, wearing your contacts at night, therefore, increases your risk of infection.
12. Red-light Therapy
Red-light therapy data can be, at some level, protective against glaucoma. In terms of dose and delivery, these are still very much open questions. But it does appear very promising in that there is a biological premise and would be an accessible therapeutic and non-invasive approach that could be brought to a very broad number of people. We still need established protocols as too bright of any light will damage the eyes.
Light therapy may be the answer to maximize our eye health both in child development as well as when we begin to age. This is an exciting area to look out for.