Protecting Yourself From Macular Degeneration

Dr. Russel Lazarus, July 22, 2020

Macular degeneration (AMD) is one of the leading causes of blindness in adults over the age of 50. 

Follow these 8 tips to lower your risk of AMD and protect your ocular health and eyesight.

Note: This article is for information purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.

1. Quit smoking

Smoking cigarettes increases your risk of AMD by up to four times, and if you have a family history of AMD, smoking can increase your risk by up to 20 times.

Cigarette smoke contains 4,700 toxic chemicals. With repeated exposure, these harmful chemicals can cause your retinal cells to age faster, and increase your risk of retinal thinning— putting your ocular health and vision at a greater risk.

Moreover, smoking reduces the levels of antioxidants in your body and therefore strips the body of its protective armor, needed for maintaining your health.

Smoking also causes narrowing of the blood vessels. This effect can increase your blood pressure, which can increase your risk of AMD.

According to some research, people who smoke have lower levels of lutein and zeaxanthin (macular pigments), responsible for protecting the macula from ultra violet (UV) radiation— another risk factor for AMD.

2. Fill your plate with green leafy vegetables

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow carotenoid antioxidants known as macular pigments because they are found in high concentrations in the macula.

According to research, consuming 6-20 mg of lutein and zeaxanthin per day can significantly reduce your risk of ocular conditions, such as AMD.

People who eat vegetables rich in lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce their risk of AMD by 43 percent.

Moreover, according to the Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2), 10 mg of lutein and 2 mg of zeaxanthin lead to a significant reduction in AMD progression.

Carotenoid-rich vegetables include dark, leafy greens, such as raw spinach, kale and collard greens. These vegetables are full of antioxidants that fight free radicals and protect your eyes from cellular damage.

3. Take a daily multivitamin supplement

If your daily meals do not provide enough vitamins and nutrients, you may be deficient in certain vitamins that are vital for your ocular health.

Speak with your doctor about adding a multivitamin to your diet to reduce your risk of AMD. 

4. Add omega-3 to your diet

Omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) are vital for ocular health. DHA is found in high concentrations in the retina, where it may help to support ocular function.

According to research, taking a daily dose of at least 500 mg of omega-3 may reduce your risk of ocular disease. 

Oily fish contains high amounts of EPA and DHA and is the best food source of omega-3. Though, omega-3 supplements containing fish oil or microalgae are good sources as well.

If you suspect you have symptoms of macular degeneration, contact an eye doctor near you, who can diagnose and treat the condition.

SEE RELATED: Coping with Macular Degeneration 

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5. Get regular exercise 

Exercise is not only beneficial for your body, but can also reduce your risk of AMD by up to 70 percent. 

According to studies, leading an active lifestyle and increasing daily physical activity may help prevent AMD.

Join an exercise class at your local gym, or invite a friend to be your jogging partner to keep yourself motivated and make exercising more enjoyable.

Caution: Always consult with your doctor before beginning any new exercise routine.

6. Control your blood pressure and cholesterol

High blood pressure (hypertension) causes poor blood circulation and may also restrict blood flow to your eyes— increasing your risk of AMD.

High cholesterol levels can contribute to obesity, and further increase your risk of AMD. Cholesterol is a fatty substance that builds up in the blood vessels, and can prevent blood from flowing easily around your body, including to your eyes— therefore increasing your risk of AMD.

Speak to your doctor about starting a new exercise routine to maintain a healthy weight, and/or lower your blood pressure.

7. Wear sunglasses with 100% UV protection 

Some studies show that years of overexposure to UV rays and blue light can cause retinal damage and may increase your risk of AMD.

Wearing sunglasses with 100% UV and blue light protection can therefore help to reduce your risk of AMD. Be sure to not only wear your shades on sunny days, but also when the sky is cloudy— clouds cannot filter out UV rays.

8. Have regular eye exams

Eye doctors recommend a dilated eye exam at least every two to three years after age 45, and every year after age 60.

Regular eye exams help your eye doctor to monitor your ocular health and facilitate easier detection of AMD.

LEARN MORE:  Guide to Eye Conditions

Schedule an appointment with an eye doctor for a comprehensive macular eye exam, and to discuss the best treatment options.

If you have a family history of AMD, be sure to inform your eye doctor during your exam.

Thankfully, these recommendations are not only preventative measures to reduce your risk of AMD, but can also be used to reduce AMD progression.

Not only will these 8 tips help to protect your eyesight, they are also beneficial to your overall health and well being.