Macular Degeneration (MD) is the leading cause of blindness in Australia. In the previous blog post we posted an article on what Macular Degeneration is. In this post we’ll summarise the factors that may put you at risk of macular degeneration and what you can do to prevent it.
Macular degeneration affects 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50, with the incidence increasing with age.
“Macular degeneration is responsible for 48% of severe vision loss in Australia.”
Studies have shown that those who smoke are 3 times at risk of developing macular degeneration. Smokers may also develop MD about 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Because the retina has a high rate of oxygen consumption, anything that affects oxygen delivery to the retina may affect vision. Smoking causes oxidative damage, which may contribute to the development and progression of this disease.
It is estimated that smoking may be responsible for around 20% of all new cases of blindness in people over the age of 50.
People with a family history of macular degeneration have a 50 percent chance of developing the disease.
People with diets high in fat, cholesterol and sugar and low in antioxidants and green leafy vegetables may be more likely to develop macular degeneration.
Checklist for Eye Health
Although family history and age cannot be changed, the following can help to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration:
- Have an eye test and make sure the macula is checked
- Don’t smoke
- Keep a healthy lifestyle, control weight andexercise regularly
- Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet
- Eat fish two to three times a week, dark green leafy vegetables and fresh fruit daily, and a handful of nuts a week. Limit the intake of fats and oils.
- Choose low glycemic index (GI) carbohydrates instead of high GI whenever possible
- In consultation with a doctor, consider a suitable supplement
- Use an Amsler grid daily to check for symptoms of macular degeneration
- Provide adequate protection for your eyes from sunlight exposure, including for those who are very youngPlease note: Any changes in diet or lifestyle should be undertaken in consultation with your doctor.
Nutrition for Eye Health
Studies show that diet is important in reducing the risk of macular degeneration and in slowing its progression. Eating a healthy, well- balanced diet high in antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients can help keep our eyes healthy.
Getting into nutritional details:
Important antioxidants for eye health include lutein and zeaxanthin. These are present in high concentrations in a healthy macula and help to protect the eye. They are found in dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach and silver beet as well as naturally yellow fruit and vegetables such as sweet corn and capsicum. In addition, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc and selenium are important antioxidants for a healthy macula.
Omega-3 fatty acids are also very important to eye health. All sh and shell sh contain omega-3s but higher concentrations are found in oily varieties of sh such as salmon, mackerel, anchovies and trout.
People who eat a higher proportion of carbohydrates with a low glycemic index (GI) compared to high GI, have a lower risk of developing macular degeneration. Low GI carbohydrates include most fruit and vegetables, whole grain cereals and whole grain breads.
Information for this post has been taken from the MD Foundation and Bright Focus Foundation websites.