Most people believe that as we age, our vision automatically weakens. Though macular degeneration is common, even among those with healthy vision, there are things we can do throughout our lives to prevent our vision from deteriorating. There is no single thing that will prevent age-related worsening of vision, but taking several steps to protect your vision can have an impact on the speed at which you experience macular degeneration. Even those who have already received a diagnosis or who experience a hereditary risk for the disease can take steps to keep their vision healthy well into their senior years.
Macular Degeneration Prevention
Below is a list of six things to do now and throughout your life to reduce your risk for macular degeneration.
1. Improve Your Diet
Dark, leafy greens. One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk for numerous diseases and to keep your vision healthy is eat a diet packed with dark, leafy greens. Research has shown people who consume diets rich in carotenoids had nearly a 50% lower risk for developing macular degeneration. Carotenoids are found in a variety of fruits and vegetables, but have the highest presence in kale, spinach, and collard greens.
Fruits and nuts. In addition to adding greens, you should also consider including fruit and nuts in your daily diet. Multiple research studies have shown people who ate at least three servings of fruit each day had a lower risk for macular degeneration. This was especially the case for a type of macular degeneration known as “wet” or advanced AMD. Nuts were also shown to be an effective tool in keeping vision healthy.
Fish. Another great addition is fish. Fish gets a great deal of attention regarding heart health, but it can also lower your risk for macular degeneration. Research shows older men who ate fish at least two times per week were nearly 50% less likely to develop macular degeneration. If you are concerned about high levels of mercury in fish and have avoided increasing your fish consumption because of your concerns, you can relax. There is a variety of fish available that pose little threat regarding mercury content.
Less refined carbs. Finally, in addition to adding these healthy foods to your diet, consider reducing a few of the unhealthy choices. One of the best dietary changes you can make to improve your vision health is to reduce the amount of refined carbohydrates you eat. Studies have shown refined carbs increase a person’s risk for developing macular degeneration. Researchers believe this is related to the way in which refined carbohydrates affect insulin levels in the body. Making healthy improvements regarding refined carbs is easy. You can swap white bread, donuts, white potatoes, and white rice for healthier choices, such as whole grain bread, fruit, brown rice, and fresh veggies.
2. Consider Taking a Multivitamin
Supplementing your diet with a multivitamin ensures your body gets all it needs, even if your diet is not perfect. Eating great all the time is tough and even people who make smart food choices find it difficult to fit in their daily dose of everything needed to ensure perfect health. A multivitamin offers a convenient option for achieving your dietary goals.
Of particular importance for your vision health are zinc and vitamins A, C, and E, so be sure the multivitamin you choose offers your recommended daily allowance for each of these. Research has shown that people who get enough of these vitamins and minerals reduce their risk for macular degeneration by about 25%.
3. Start a Fitness Regimen
Common sense health improvements can go a long way in preventing macular degeneration. Exercising and maintaining a healthy weight has been shown to reduce a person’s risk for macular degeneration by up to 70%. Optimal results were seen from people who walked at least two miles per day or three miles per week. It does not take a lot of exercise to trigger a dramatic reduction in your risk for vision-related problems.
4. Keep Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in Check
Chances are, if you make the dietary and fitness improvements listed above, your blood pressure and cholesterol levels will improve. There is some evidence showing that high cholesterol is linked to macular degeneration. Researchers believe this is because blood is unable to flow throughout the body when fat has built up in the blood vessels, resulting in a deterioration of your eye tissue.
5. Protect Your Eye
- Protection against UV. The tips listed above are general health improvements you can make that also happen to benefit your eye health. In addition to living a healthier life, you will also want to specifically protect your eye health. If you do not already, wear sunglasses with UV protection when you are outdoors. Just as you need to protect your skin from harmful UV rays, you should also protect your eyes. There is some evidence that suggests cumulative eye damage from long-term exposure to UV rays plays a role in developing macular degeneration. The risk for damaging your eye health increases even more when UV ray exposure was combined with a diet containing too few antioxidants.
- Eye exams. Another important part of protecting your eye health is undergoing regular eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends eye exams at least every two to three years up to the age of 60. People 60 and older will want to schedule an eye exam annually. This allows your eye doctor to keep tabs on your vision health and monitor any changes that occur throughout your life.
6. Quit Smoking
Finally, and perhaps the most important thing you can do to reduce your risk for macular degeneration: quit smoking. Studies have shown smokers have a far greater risk for developing macular degeneration. As a matter of fact, the risk could increase at least four times. Worse yet, smokers might experience severer cases of macular degeneration. Research has shown that smokers developing macular degeneration have a greater risk for eventual blindness from the condition.
Giving up the habit of smoking can also help you improve your health in other ways. It is important to remember that many health issues are related and by making a few simple changes, you reduce your risk for many serious diseases, while also improving your vision health.