Macular degeneration affects more than 13 million Americans and is a leading cause of blindness for those over the age of 55. The exact cause of macular degeneration is not known, but researchers have shown that genetics strongly influence your risk of developing macular degeneration. However, if macular degeneration runs in your family, there are lifestyle choices you can make that may decrease your risk of developing the disease.
In order to know how to prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration it first helps to understand what the disease actually is. The macula is the part of your eye’s retina that helps you see objects that are directly in front of you, which is referred to as your central vision. When the macula is damaged, your vision may be dark or blurry or you may see spots or wavy lines. These symptoms make it more difficult for you to drive, read, or do everyday activities.
There are two forms of macular degeneration. Dry, or atrophic, macular degeneration occurs when critical photoreceptors in the eye gradually break down, affecting night vision and visual clarity. Wet, or exudative, macular degeneration is caused by leaks in the blood vessels of the retina, causing scarring and decay of retinal tissue. The majority of people with macular degeneration have the dry, or atrophic, form.
To remain healthy, the macula requires a high rate of oxygenated blood flow that’s rich in nutrients. Anything that interferes with a healthy blood flow to the vessels of the eye can contribute to macular degeneration. There are many dietary or lifestyle choices that can reduce the supply of oxygen and vital nutrients to the eyes.
Smoking dramatically increases your risk of developing macular degeneration because it inhibits the delivery of oxygen to the retina. Likewise a fatty diet, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and lack of exercise impede oxygen flow to the eyes. With that in mind, there are 5 lifestyle choices you can make to prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration:
- Don’t smoke and avoid secondhand smoke
- Maintain a healthy blood pressure
- Lower cholesterol levels
- Exercise to promote oxygen flow
- Eat a healthy diet high in vitamins and nutrients from fruits and vegetables
In addition, as we discussed in Carrots & Eyesight: Myth or Reality, foods or supplements that are high in the nutrients beta-carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for slowing down macular degeneration.
If macular degeneration runs in your family, discuss preventive strategies and early detection with your doctor. It’s important to visit your ophthalmologist for an eye exam every year to detect any changes in your vision. Annual eye exams can detect many diseases such as macular degeneration, diabetes, high blood pressure, cataracts, and glaucoma.
With two locations at 7800 Conner Road in Powell and 744 Middle Creek Road, Suite 200 in Sevierville, East Tennessee Eye Surgeons delivers the highest quality eye care in an exceptional setting. Visit our website to learn more about us, or call us at 865-546-1464 (Powell) or 865-908-7008 (Sevierville).