Chances are, you — like most folks — don’t think about your eye health until you start having vision problems.
Yet, age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, affects nearly 2.07 million adults older than 65 in the U.S., according to the National Eye Institute. It’s also the leading cause of vision loss among Americans in that age group.
Research by the NEI indicates that smoking doubles a person’s risk for AMD. Other known risk factors include family history, UV radiation, high-energy blue light and race: Caucasian-Americans make up 89 percent of AMD sufferers.
AMD causes permanent damage to the eye, specifically causing a loss in central vision. There is no known cure for macular degeneration, but the good news is that there are several things you can do to help prevent it or to slow your loss of vision if you already suffer from it.
By protecting your eyes from UV radiation, and eating foods that contain essential vitamins, a person may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration by 35 percent, according to a study from Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and corroborated by a 2009 study by Tufts University.
If you’re looking to promote eye health, and make a delicious dinner, start with fish such as salmon, herring or mackerel. The omega-3 fatty acids in many fish helps to protect light receptor cells in eyes from damage by sunlight. Fish makes a great main course and may be prepared roasted, broiled or seared.
A five-year study conducted by the National Eye Institute, — the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) — showed that vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and zinc could help to slow the progress of macular degeneration, so consider adding a side of dark greens like spinach, cabbage, chard or asparagus for a dose of beta-carotene, and vitamins C and E.
If you enjoy fruit, you might include a mango, cherries, watermelon or grapefruit for similar effects. You may also incorporate bell peppers or nuts in your preparations. Bell peppers of all colors, and nuts — such as almonds, cashews, and peanuts — contain a number of antioxidants that promote good eye health.
A good diet is only part of the preventative solution. Protecting your eyes from UV and high-energy visible (HEV) light, also known as blue light, is arguably the primary way to keep your eyes in good shape. According to allaboutvision.com, your focus should be on sunglasses that block 100 percent of UV radiation and also block most HEV rays. Krystyna Borkowski, store manager at Shades by Wellington and Weddell, agrees.
“When picking out any sunglasses, you should never settle for anything less than 100% UV protection,” she said in an interview.
To get the most protection, allaboutvision.com suggests the use of wraparound, wide or tight fitting sunglasses. When looking for blue-blocker sunglasses, choose a pair with lenses tinted bronze, copper or reddish-brown.
“Wrap arounds are an excellent idea if the person is in water or snow sports, as water and light surfaces reflect and intensify the sun’s rays from all angles,” said Borkowski. “They also help protect the sensitive skin closest to the eyes.”
Wearing a wide-brimmed hat on a sunny day may also reduce eye exposure to damaging light by up to 50 percent.
Your vision naturally deteriorates over time, so Dr. Jim Wellington at Wellington and Weddell Eye Care recommends you regularly have your eyes checked as you age.
“Regular eye exams are essential for children in order to catch and prevent lazy eyes, and for all ages to catch glaucoma, cataracts and many other eye diseases,” Dr. Wellington said.
Proper eye care, proper diet and eye screenings are the best ways you can ensure years of healthy vision.