“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The classic proverb was coined by Benjamin Franklin, who was obviously referencing the concept that it is easier to stop something from happening in the first place than to repair the damage after it has already been done. The notion rings true for many instances, particularly where eye disease is concerned. From smoking to light exposure to diet, there are a variety of known modifiable (and non-modifiable) risk factors that contribute to the onset of macular degeneration. However, with some knowledge and preventative measures, mitigating your AMD risk level is possible. The following are excellent ways to help protect your eye sight:
Talk to Your Family: Having a genetic predisposition to AMD is one of the biggest risk factors for the disease. Ask your immediate relatives about their eye health and make note of it. Be sure to also inquire as to whether they are aware if a grandparent, aunt or sibling developed any eye related diseases or issues in their lifetime. Being armed with your family medical history is a key component in protecting your vision from eye disease. The earlier you are aware and inform your doctor that AMD may be hereditary for you, the more likely treatment can be implemented and vision can be salvaged.
Supplement with Macular Carotenoids: Since the human body does not naturally manufacture ocular carotenoids, it is vital to supplement with all three of them. Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Meso-Zeaxanthin need to work in a synergistic manner to help improve the macular protective pigment at the back of the eye. When this pigment density is increased, the macula (which is responsible for central vision) is more protected from free radicals and harmful blue light spectrums. A supplement like MacuHealth contains all three of the macular carotenoids in the appropriate amounts to help build upon macular pigment, improve visual function and stave off AMD. Check with your doctor whether a nutraceutical like MacuHealth is right for you
Educate Yourself (and Consider Meso-Zeaxanthin!): One of the keys to controlling risk factors for any disease is efficient patient education. If you are at risk for AMD, make it a priority to learn as much as you can about the condition, its symptoms and treatment methods by conducting your own research and asking your doctor important questions. For example, research has concluded that lesser-known carotenoid Meso-Zeaxanthin is the most potent antioxidant of the three macular carotenoids. Since Meso-Zeaxanthin is not found in large amounts in a typical Western diet (it is found in small doses in rainbow trout, shrimp etc.), it is important to ensure that your daily vitamin and/or supplement contains this pigment.
Watch out for Blue Light: With the increasing prevalence of smart phones, tablets and other handy electronics, eyes are exposed to harmful light spectrums now more than ever. In fact, harmful blue light is emitted from fluorescent, CFL and LED bulbs. Exposure to blue light causes a gradual oxidation and deterioration of the macular pigment and macula, leaving eyes more susceptible to glare issues, decreased contrast sensitivity and macular degeneration. Look into purchasing some quality, protective eyewear to lessen your exposure.
Quit Smoking: While today it is common knowledge that smoking causes respiratory illnesses like emphysema and lung cancer; it seems society is somewhat under informed about the clear link between smoking and macular degeneration. Studies have shown that smoking (and even being exposed to secondhand smoke) can enhance free radical generation and reduce macular pigment density. If you’re a smoker, it’s time to quit the single most controllable risk factor for AMD once and for all!
Eat More Greens: Proper nutrition is critical to eye health. As previously mentioned, it is very difficult to obtain an adequate dose of Meso-Zeaxanthin in the Western diet. However, Lutein and Zeaxanthin are readily found in leafy green and brightly coloured vegetables like kale, bell peppers and spinach, for example.
Exercise Regularly and Stay a Healthy Weight: What’s good for the heart is generally good for the eyes. Aim to reach your target heart rate range at least three times per week. Recumbent bike, yoga, brisk walks and light weight lifting are all low vision or beginner friendly ways to exercise.
Reduce Simple Carbohydrates: Limiting refined sugar in your diet can potentially slow the progression of AMD or even help to protect against the development of the blinding disease. A study from Tufts University showed a correlation between eating food high in glycemic index (such as white pasta, bread, cake or muffins) and an increased risk or worsening of AMD. (Ditch the breakfast bagel and opt for eggs!)