Macular Degeneration, also known as ARMD (or Age Related Macular Degeneration), is the leading cause of vision loss in individuals over the age of 55 in America. This disease causes damage to the tissue of the macula, or the small portion of the retina responsible for central and detail vision. Symptoms often develop over time, sometimes causing gradual and irreversible vision loss. While ARMD is more commonly seen in elderly patients, there are many ways people of all ages can help reduce their risk of developing the disease.
The primary non-controllable risk factors of macular degeneration include age, a family history of macular degeneration, and fair-pigmentation, and this disease more commonly affects females and Caucasians. These are the risk factors we cannot control.
The great news is that there are many risk factors we can control! Smoking, inactivity, and prolonged sun exposure play a part in the development of ARMD. Through smoking cessation, increased activity and exercise, and the proper UV-blocking sun-wear, patients can reduce their likelihood of developing this disease.
Similarly, diet and nutrition play a huge role in the prevention of ARMD. Our eyes require certain antioxidant nutrients, (also called caratenoids), to maintain a healthy macula. These include lutein, zeaxanthin, and meso-zeaxanthin, and can only come from the foods we eat, and supplementation.
Consuming a diet rich in green leafy vegetables, vitamins B and C, zinc, and omega-3’s, while avoiding fat, sugar and cholesterol, can help prevent macular degeneration. Choosing a diet like this can also help with managing high blood pressure and obesity, which not only improves the health of our bodies, but more specifically our maculas!
Summer is the perfect time to go on a long adventurous hike with your friends, then grill some caratenoid-packed veggies, all while sporting your awesome macula-protecting sunglasses! Who knew that helping reduce our chances of developing ARMD could be so easy and fun!