What Is Macular Degeneration & How Can You Prevent It?
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of vision loss and affects more than 10 million people across the U.S., which is more than both glaucoma and cataracts combined. The condition is characterized by the deterioration of the central retina, or macula, which focuses on central vision. This important area of the eye enables reading, driving, recognizing faces and colors, and allows us to see objects in detail.
Although AMD is currently incurable, there are ways you can limit your risks, and if diagnosed, potentially control its progression. Discover more about the condition and key prevention strategies below.
What Causes AMD?
While the specific mechanisms behind AMD are still not conclusively known, experts are on the verge of making groundbreaking discoveries in the diagnosis and treatment of the condition. In particular, researchers from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) are exploring gene therapies as a prevention strategy, and have discovered that subtle gene alterations are responsible for 75% of a person’s risk for developing AMD. They have also pinpointed a daily regimen of vitamins and minerals which delays the onset of the more advanced phases of the condition by 25%.
How Can You Reduce Your Risk?
Although the definitive cause for AMD has yet to be discovered, there are known factors which are known to increase risk. For this reason, the following lifestyle modifications may be your best line of defense for preventing AMD:
- Quit or Avoid Smoking: Research indicates that smoking doubles the risk of AMD, so if you haven’t already quit, make a plan to do so.
- Control Your Blood Pressure: High blood pressure has body-wide implications, but in the delicate blood vessels in your eyes, its effects are especially pronounced. It is therefore essential for anyone experiencing hypertension to work closely with their doctors on controlling their blood pressure levels.
- Exercise: Regular exercise has been shown to protect against AMD. In particular, sedentary individuals were four times more likely to get AMD than those who exercised lightly at least 10 hours per week or moderately for 8 hours each week.
- Eat a Well-Balanced Diet: Based on the NIH’s AERDS study, experts believe high doses of critical nutrients, including vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc can slow the progression of both AMD and cataracts. This suggests nutrition may play a pivotal role in maintaining eye health with age, especially for at-risk populations including those with a family history of AMD.
- Consider Supplements: While diet should be your primary source for vitamins and minerals, even healthy eating patterns leave nutritional gaps. Moreover, participants in the aforementioned AERDS study who benefited from increased vitamin intake were given high doses which would be impossible to obtain through diet alone. If you have been diagnosed with early-stage AMD or face an elevated risk for the disease, consider discussing your supplement options with your doctor.