Healthy eye sight is dependent upon our overall well-being, which is dependent upon our genetic make-up, the foods we eat, our activity level, work environment and exposure to airborne toxins. Aging macular degeneration (AMD) is one of many eye diseases that can be slowed down. Although we can’t avoid aging or genetics which are the main causes of AMD, we can control other risk factors and delay or slow the progression of the disease.
AMD occurs when there is damage to the part of the retina known as the macula- which is the part of the eye that controls sharp central vision. When the macula deteriorates, it causes blurred vision. It may affect the ability to drive, to see faces and to read smaller print, but it rarely causes blindness. AMD
Specific habits have been identified in studies to be damaging to eye health. The main risk factors besides age and genetics is smoking, high blood pressure and a diet high in saturated fats and refined processed foods. So how can we prevent vision loss and keep our eyes and bodies strong? Here are 6 steps in preventing age-related macular degeneration:
1. Stop Smoking! Studies have shown that smokers have a 2-3 times higher risk in the development of AMD than non-smokers. A 2015 study found damage and inflammation to several layers of the macula in smokers. Smoking causes high blood pressure which raises pressure in the blood vessels and raises oxidative stress and free radicals.
2. Eat more leafy greens which are rich in carotenoids that your eyes need, especially lutein and zeaxanthin. These particular carotenoids have been shown to be low in people with macular degeneration. Collards, kale and spinach can be added to soups, salads, or pureeing them in smoothies. These nutrients in foods or supplements have been found to prevent and even improve AMD in many cases. Vitamin C can enhance the absorption of lutein.
3. Weight loss (if needed) helps digestion and lowers inflammation which allows for a healthier microbiome. Avoid the typical Western Diet which is high in saturated fats and high fructose corn syrups, sugars and processed foods.
4. Choose healthy fats such as omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3’s have the ability to regulate formation of extraneous blood vessels that distort vision. Eating fish is a great way to increase omega-3 in your diet. Some people need supplementation and 2 grams daily with food is a good starting place. Vegetarians can choose algae, hemp or krill as good sources.
5. Zinc is necessary for a healthy macula and is found abundant in meats and seafood. It is also in nuts, grains and legumes but is not in a readily absorbable form. Zinc supplementation may be needed for vegetarians and vegans. A RBC Zinc level can determine deficiencies.
6. Vitamin D3 is easy to measure in a blood test. Low levels are associated with increases in macular degeneration symptoms. Vitamin D has anti-inflammatory and anti-angiogenic benefits, especially where genetic risk is greatest. D3 has an important role in the immune system and aging process of AMD and all diseases.
Choose a positive, healthy lifestyle that includes exercise, daily meditations or walks in nature and a healthy diet. It may prevent or slow down the diseases of aging and improve the quality of your life.
References: Grossman, M. Eye disease, integrative vision care, and nutrition. Townsend Letter. April 2022, issue #465, p 42-43.
Age-related Macular Degeneration. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/agerelated-macular-degeneration-amd.