Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration is a loss of vision caused by deterioration of the central portion of the retina, and although there are treatments, none can cure it, but can only stop it progressing. So, it makes sense to take preventative measures before you get problems.
The consensus seems to be that if you eat a balanced diet, take exercise, keep your weight down, and don’t smoke, the odds of avoiding it are good, and if you take a daily supplement of lutein and zeaxanthin, then you are improving your odds still further.

Let’s look at the advice in detail from health authorities (some of it abbreviated):
The American Macular Degeneration Foundation
Macular Degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, affecting more than 10 million Americans – more than cataracts and glaucoma combined.
The causes are complex, but include both heredity and environment.
The biggest risk factor for Macular Degeneration is age. Your risk increases as you age, and the disease is most likely to occur in those 55 and older.
While the causes of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) are complex, several of the risk factors are controllable. Smoking (which doubles the risk), being overweight overall and around the abdomen, and having unchecked cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure all increase a person’s risk for AMD. Long-term exposure to the sun without eye protection is, similarly, a risk factor.

The Mayo Clinic
Dry macular degeneration is a common eye disorder among people over 50. It causes blurred or reduced central vision, due to thinning of the macula. The macula is the part of the retina responsible for clear vision in your direct line of sight.
Controllable risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease.
Dry macular degeneration may progress to wet macular degeneration, which can cause rapid vision loss if left untreated.
Prevention
It’s important to have routine eye exams to identify early signs of macular degeneration. The following measures may help reduce your risk of developing dry macular degeneration:
•Manage your other medical conditions. For example, if you have cardiovascular disease or high blood pressure, take your medication and follow your doctor’s instructions for controlling the condition.
•Don’t smoke. Smokers are more likely to develop macular degeneration than are nonsmokers.
•Maintain a healthy weight and exercise regularly.
•Choose a diet rich in fruits and vegetables.
•Include fish in your diet. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are found in fish, may reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Nuts, such as walnuts, also contain omega-3 fatty acids.

The UK Macular Society
Regular exercise and a balanced diet are important for general wellbeing and protecting against many health conditions. Diet is thought to be important because certain nutrients protect the body against substances called “oxidants”.
Most research has focused on vitamins A, C and E. These are thought to maintain healthy cells and tissues in the eye. Some studies are also looking at the effects of omega 3 on eye health.
More recently, interest has grown in another antioxidant, lutein, and a similar substance, zeaxanthin. Both of these are yellow plant pigments, which give certain fruit and vegetables their colour. There are several studies that suggest that consuming at least 10mg of lutein per day has the most beneficial effects on macular pigment levels.

So how do I get my Lutein and Omega 3?
Eggs contain high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin, but what if you’re vegan, as I am right now?
I want to be sure I’m getting my daily fix, so I take a supplement of lutein and zeaxanthin. And I also take a daily supplement of all three types of Omega 3.
An interesting bit of news in July 2018, was that eating one orange each day can halve the risk of getting macular degeneration. It came from some in-depth research in Australia. “Even eating an orange once a week seemed to offer significant benefits. … the data suggest that flavonoids in oranges appear to help prevent against the eye disease.”
So I also make sure I include an orange in my diet at least once a week! What’s to lose?

Sources

Macular Society: https://www.macularsociety.org/diet-and-exercise

The American Macular Degeneration Foundation: https://www.macular.org/

Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dry-macular-degeneration/symptoms-causes/syc-20350375

NHS: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd/

Oranges as a benefit: https://www.westmeadinstitute.org.au/news-and-events/2018/an-orange-a-day-keeps-macular-degeneration-away-1
https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/108/2/381/5049680

Link to my post on “Omega 3

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