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Sight set on eye health

Aussie rocker Kirk Pengilly discusses eye health, specs and health challenges of touring.

Australian musician Kirk Pengilly is known for his stylish specs. Eye health issues throughout his life have heightened his awareness of eye disease and in 2007 he became an ambassador for The Royal Australian & New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO) Eye Foundation.

This July the RANZCO Eye Foundation is encouraging all Australians to get their eyes tested as part of its JulEYE campaign.

We asked Kirk how he keeps physically healthy, his advice for maintaining good eye health and some of the health challenges associated with a life of touring with iconic Australian rock band INXS.

How has your view of health changed as you have gotten older and become a father?

Certainly as I have gotten older, I have become more aware of what my body needs to maintain good health. I very rarely get sick or get a cold or flu. Obviously we all want to be around as long as we can so that means maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit.

How do you keep physically healthy?

I go to the gym every second day when I’m home and try to maintain that when I am travelling. I have about seven different routines that I rotate. Food-wise, I limit carbs, sugar, fried and processed foods. My weakness is hot chips though, so I try to limit them to once or twice a week. I have a Naturopath who has been my practitioner for over 25 years and I always have a bottle of his ‘herbal remedy’ in the fridge, tailored to my needs.

What are some health challenges you have faced from being in a touring band?

Every show has to be the best, night after night, so it is really important to maintain your health on the road so that you perform consistently. As they say ‘the show must go on’ whether you are ill or not. Over the years I found that getting lots of sleep is crucial and of course good, healthy food. In the early days there were lots of parties and I had to learn how to pace myself and give myself a curfew to allow enough sleep and rest.

What is the history of your eye health?

It all started when I was four or five with a lazy right eye and I have worn glasses ever since. I was the little geeky kid with glasses and a patch over one eye in kindy.

I am ‘long-sighted’ so glasses or contacts are really the only option. I never cared for contact lenses and I’m not comfortable with Laser Correction Surgery. Besides, glasses have always been a big part of my ‘look.’

My sight has gradually worsened over the years to where I need a reading script as well as a normal sight script. Thank heavens for multifocal and transition lenses as I only need the one pair of glasses – I do have a collection of tinted glasses for stage though.

When I was in my late 20s I came within a millimetre of going blind from Acute Angle Glaucoma. Luckily my optometrist diagnosed it quickly and soon after I had pioneering laser surgery (mid ‘80s) done on both eyes. This permanently fixed the glaucoma for me.

What advice do you have for people and families to maintain eye health?

It is so important to look after your eye health from a very early age, just like most people do with their teeth. Everyone should get their eyes checked periodically, even if you don’t need glasses and especially if you have a family history of eye disease.

Aussie rocker Kirk Pengilly discusses eye health, specs and the health challenges of being in a touring band.

Find out where you can be tested, or to donate to the RANZCO Eye Foundation and support eye health research and sustainable development projects. To find a Medibank Choice optometrist, click here.

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