Age-related macular degeneration is responsible for about half of all cases of blindness in people over the age of 40 in developed countries, with more than 6% of Americans developing the disease at some point in their lives. Macular degeneration is a disease in which the macula, a small part of the retina inside the eye, erodes over time. As the macula becomes more and more damaged, the field of vision begins to diminish. Unfortunately, the disease often progresses quickly, so early recognition and treatment is essential.

    We previously discussed AMD’s causes and treatments, and in our last post we discussed diet and general eye health. Today we are focusing specifically on diet related to age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

    Age-related macular degeneration is divided into two subtypes of the disease: wet and dry. While there are more treatments available for wet AMD, recent research suggests that diet and supplementation may be of help for those with dry AMD. Unfortunately, treatment does not reverse AMD, but with proper treatment, including a healthy diet, AMD’s progression may be slowed.

    For those with dry AMD, the only current treatment is vitamin supplementation combined with a healthy diet. Such a diet should include several servings of fish and dark, leafy green vegetables every week. Although diet and supplementation won’t cure dry or wet AMD, they may help slow the progression of the disease.

    For those either in the advanced stages of wet AMD, or at risk of developing advanced symptoms, high doses of certain antioxidant vitamins and minerals may lower risk by up to 25%, according to a study done in 2001. Before embarking on a new supplementation regimen, be sure to consult with your doctor.

    Regardless of the type of AMD you may suffer from, researchers in the Netherlands have found that people who eat diets high in zinc and omega-3 fatty acids had the lowest risk of developing AMD.

    There is also evidence that lowering your cholesterol may help slow or reduce your risk of developing AMD. While medications can aid in lowering cholesterol, Harvard University researchers found that reducing red meat in the diet while increasing fruits and vegetables is imperative in slowing the progression of AMD. Heart health has been directly identified as a risk factor for developing AMD — as your risk for heart disease increases, so does your risk for AMD. By treating heart disease, or eating a heart-healthy diet to prevent heart disease, you may also be doing your eyes a favor.

    In addition to eating a diet low in cholesterol, the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition has found that those consuming diets high in refined carbohydrates and sugar are at greater risk for developing AMD. Diets high in saturated fats are also linked to increased risk for AMD.

    Everyone can benefit from a healthy diet, but if you are risk for or have already been diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration, take a careful look at your eating habits. Enlist the help of your Silverstein Eye Centers specialist to help you develop and stick to the best nutrition plan for you. Although proper diet and supplementation may help those with AMD, there are some risks associated with combining supplements and certain health issues or smoking. Be sure to discuss your vision concerns, overall health, current medications and supplements, and whether or not you smoke with your doctor.

    To make an appointment with a Silverstein Eye Centers physician for concerns about AMD or any other eye-related issues, please call us today at 816-358-3600.

    Posted February 6, 2014 by Silverstein Eye Centers
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