February 28, 2020
Macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss in older Americans, with 14% of the population over age 80 affected. It’s caused by the deterioration of the macula, the central area of the retina controlling visual acuity. The macula helps us identify faces, read, drive, watch television, use a computer and take on any task requiring fine detail work. When the macula ages and the tissue becomes thin, or pigment deposits build in the macula, gradual loss of central vision develops. This earlier stage is called dry (or non-neovascular) macular degeneration.
As the condition progresses, about 10% of affected cases will develop a new growth of tiny blood vessels beneath the retina. These blood vessels are not part of our body’s planned anatomy, and as they develop, they often leak, causing blood and fluid to damage essential light-sensitive retinal cells. These cells eventually die and cause dark spots that block vision in the center of the eye. This more serious condition is known as wet (neovascular) macular degeneration.
The bad news is neither form of macular generation can be cured. The good news is you can help prevent macular degeneration by choosing certain food groups that provide protection against the disease. The changes are simple…and in many cases, tasty.
Salmon, tuna and other cold-water fish contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk for the disease. Avoiding packaged foods can work hand-in-hand with boosting your omega-3 rich food intake. Most packaged foods contain omega-6 fatty acids present in vegetable oil. By eating as much fresh food as possible and increasing your omega -3 intake, you can turn the odds in your favor. Taking fish oil pills, however, does not seem to add this valuable protection against macular degeneration.
Avoid artificial fats when possible. Low-fat foods such as skim milk and cottage cheese undergo a process that removes the fat from a naturally fatty food, and this is a safe way to get the benefits of dairy without adding fat. Artificial fats such as those added to low-fat baked goods or snacks are often full of the omega-6 fatty acids you want to avoid.
Go for fresh, leafy greens such as kale, broccoli, collards and spinach, and don’t forget to add some carrots, green beans or peas. These vegetables contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which help protect them from sun damage. The same antioxidants can protect your eyes from sun damage as well. Try eating more fruit; blueberries, grapes, oranges, tangerines and peaches can contribute to the cause.
To increase your intake of zinc, another valuable tool to fight macular degeneration, you should choose high protein foods such as pork, chicken, beef and lamb. You can add high-protein vegetarian choices with legumes, beans, dairy products and whole-wheat breads. Oysters, crab, lobster, nuts, seeds and even dark chocolate can boost your zinc intake.
Lift a glass to save your sight! A report in the January 1998 issue of The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found people who drink wine in moderation may be less likely to develop age-related macular degeneration. Benefits were noticed when seniors consumed 1-3 glasses of wine per month. It’s important to note that no benefit stemmed from drinking spirits or beer – and that this hypothesis will require additional studies to confirm its results. It’s a reassuring thought, though…
For more information on choosing sight-wise foods, plus delicious recipes for preparing them, check out the Eat Right for Your Sight TM cookbook!
Remember – only a trained eye doctor can diagnose macular degeneration. It’s critical you have a vision test every year after the age of 50. Your optometrist can complete the screenings necessary to check for macular degeneration in just a few minutes. At Pro-Optix Eye Care, we specialize in treating the Tanglewood/Galleria Area’s senior population. Find us online by searching “optometrist near me”!
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