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Eye and Vision Care

Healthy Choices Today Can Help Lead to Healthy Eyesight in the Future

Did you know that healthy habits not only affect your waistline - they can also help save your sight? You can lower your risk for blinding eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), by taking basic steps to ensure your overall health.

AMD is the leading cause of uncorrectable vision loss and blindness for those ages 65 and older in the United States. It causes a loss of central vision, usually in both eyes, which can result in a range of difficulties, including reading and seeing fine details. The person may notice distorted, wavy lines, a dark or empty spot in the center of their vision, or just blurry text. Over time, the vision loss can worsen significantly.

Some forms of macular degeneration can be stabilized or improved somewhat through special treatments. Additionally, according to the National Eye Institute (NEI), there are specific supplements high in zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta carotene that have been shown to help slow the disease progression for some people with macular degeneration. Plus, people struggling with reading and other tasks due to AMD can often benefit from a referral for low vision rehabilitation.

Nevertheless, despite promising research, there is still no cure.

Ways to Lower Your Risk for AMD

Avoiding smoking is essential to maintaining healthy vision. Research shows that smokers are up to four times more likely than non-smokers to be diagnosed with AMD. And, non-smokers living with smokers almost double their risk of developing AMD through second-hand smoke. The World Health Organization names smoking as the only modifiable risk factor for AMD.

Eating a diet filled with green leafy vegetables rich in lutein may also help lessen the risk of AMD. Lutein is a naturally occurring molecule found in vegetables such as spinach, kale and collard greens. It can also be found in corn, egg yolks and other vegetables and fruits. Frequently eating nuts or fish, such as salmon, tuna or mackerel, may also help reduce the risk.

Avoiding foods with high-fat content, such as processed baked goods, may also be helpful, according to the AMD Alliance International (AMDAI). A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can lead to fatty plaque deposits in the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow. Research has indicated that those consuming red meat at least 10 times a week were at a 47 percent higher risk for AMD.

Other steps that may help reduce risk for AMD include controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, staying active and exercising regularly, and getting a complete eye exam from an eye care professional.

Overall, the message is clear: Make sure you lead a healthy life - it can help lead to healthy vision.

This article is based on information provided by Prevent Blindness Ohio and was adapted for use on NetWellness with permission.

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Last Reviewed: Mar 29, 2011

Roanne   Flom, OD Roanne Flom, OD
Professor of Clinical Optometry
College of Optometry
The Ohio State University