Because those 65+ represent an increasingly larger percentage of the general population, vision loss from macular degeneration is a growing problem. In fact, worldwide, approximately 25 to 30 million people are affected by AMD (a number that is expected to triple by 2025), but awareness of the condition is actually low.
Here is what you need to know about AMD and how to protect yourself against this threat to your vision.
AMD is a degenerative disease that damages the macula, a part of the retina. The macula is responsible for the sharp, detailed vision needed to read or drive, so AMD results in central vision loss, leaving only peripheral, or side vision.
The macula is a yellow spot of about five millimeters diameter on the retina. As we age, levels of the pigments in the macula decrease naturally, which increase the risk of AMD. These pigments filter the harmful blue light than can damage cells in the eye, but a macular pigment that is too thin allows the blue light through to destroy the cells.
What is in that important, protective macular pigment? The yellow color comes from two antioxidant carotenoids: Lutein and Zeaxanthin. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy vegetables, and can also be taken in more concentrated amounts in supplement form.
Maintaining high levels of both of these carotenoids, and therefore the macular pigment, is considered essential to maintaining eye health and reducing the risk of AMD. Research supporting this is strong; there have been dozens of studies over the years, with findings showing that increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin are associated with increased macular pigmentation.
In addition to lutein and zeaxanthin, a growing body of science supports potential benefits for omega-3 fatty acids in AMD. A review of numerous studies reported that a high intake of omega-3 fatty acids and fish may reduce the risk of AMD by up to 38 per cent, and a separate study found that increased intakes of omega-3 fatty acids may reduce the risk of developing age-related blindness by 30 percent. Omega-3 DHA is a major component of the photoreceptor of the retina and needs to be constantly replenishment due to oxidative stress in those cells.
To maintain optimal levels of the nutrients needed to protect the macula and retina, you may want to consider supplementing with Vision Support –which contains lutein, zeaxanthin, cruciferous vegetable complex (kale, broccoli, spinach, etc.) and 14 other nutrients to support eye health – and Basic Nutrient Support, which includes Omega-3 fatty acids among its 80+ ingredients.
Taking the following lifestyle can also play a role in reducing your risk of developing AMD:
• Eat a healthy diet high in green leafy vegetables and fish.
• Don't smoke.
• Maintain normal blood pressure.
• Watch your weight.
For those who already have intermediate dry (the more common form) AMD , research indicates that a specific supplement treatment can delay and possibly prevent intermediate AMD from progressing to the advanced stage, in which vision loss occurs.
The National Eye Institute's Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that taking a high-dose formulation of the antioxidants vitamin A, C and E as well as zinc significantly reduces the risk of advanced AMD and its associated vision loss. A second AREDS study, using lutein, zeaxanthin, and the omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA is currently in progress.
Once dry AMD reaches the advanced stage, no form of treatment can prevent vision loss, so slowing AMD's progression from the intermediate stage to the advanced stage could save the vision of many people.
Dr. Reginald B. Cherry (drcherry.org) is a member of the American Medical Association, Texas Medical Association, Harris County Medical Society, and the American College of Preventive Medicine. Dr. Cherry has authored numerous articles on Preventive Medicine, emphasizing nutrition and exercise. He also speaks extensively on these topics nationwide and conducts numerous seminars for various groups and organizations. Currently, his weekly television program reaches 80 million homes. www.thepathwaytohealing.com