More than 11 million Americans are currently living with age-related macular degeneration, but by 2050 it is estimated that number will double. AMD is the leading cause of vision loss for adults over the age of 50, however, recent research has found that certain lifestyle changes may reduce your risk of contracting AMD, and could even slow the progression of degeneration if you are already experiencing symptoms.

Age-related macular degeneration damages the macula, which is a part of the back of the eye near the retina that helps us see objects straight ahead. AMD varies from person to person in how quickly it progresses and affects vision loss, but it will start by causing your vision to blur and will eventually create blind spots in your central vision. While AMD does not result in complete blindness, it will make daily activities like reading, driving, or any work you do close to your eyes very difficult, if not impossible.

The older you get, the more at risk you are of experiencing symptoms of AMD. Women are actually more susceptible simply because they live longer than men on average. And in case you needed one more reason to quit smoking, it has been found that smokers are more likely to lose vision to AMD.

About ten years ago, the first Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS1), sponsored by the National Eye Institute, found that people who supplemented their diets with high levels of vitamins C and E, beta-carotene, zinc and copper reduced their risk of progression to advanced AMD by 25 percent after 5 years. A follow up study completed a few years ago (AREDS2) also found that a diet rich with omega-3 fatty acids can help protect from degeneration.

Eating foods rich in these nutrients may help to slow the progression of AMD. Vitamin C can be found in many fruits and vegetables like dark leafy greens, carrots, bell peppers, avocados, and oranges. You can get plenty of vitamin E from sunflower seeds, almonds, and peanuts. Lean beef and some breakfast cereals are great for getting more zinc in your diet, and fish like salmon and trout are the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids.

Changing your diet to include more of these nutrients won’t miraculously cure age-related macular degeneration, but updating your lifestyle can help maintain vision for those at risk of developing AMD. If you believe you may be at risk for age-related macular degeneration, schedule an appointment with your physician, and continue with regular checkups to protect your eyes’ health and vision. Your mother was right – eat your vegetables!

Dr. Robert Schultze
Dr. Robert Schultze
A Phi Beta Kappa graduate from the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Schultze received his medical degree from Temple University School of Medicine in 1994, where he was distinguished with the Lamport Biomedical Research Award. Upon completion of ophthalmology residency at Albany Medical College in 1998, Dr. Schultze elected to further his education with one additional year of specialty fellowship training in Cornea, External Disease and Refractive Surgery at the Albany Medical College. Dr. Schultze has been appointed Professor of Ophthalmology and Director of Cornea, Cataract, and Refractive Surgery at the Albany Medical Center Department of Ophthalmology where he teaches medical students, residents, and fellows the latest diagnostic and therapeutic techniques. He also serves as Ophthalmology Residency Program Director, Director of Medical Student Education in Ophthalmology, and Director of the Cornea Fellowship Program. Dr. Schultze is Medical Director and a founding partner of his medical practice, Cornea Consultants of Albany. He also serves as Medical Director of TLC Laser Eye Center as well as the Lions Eye Bank at Albany and has served on the Northeastern Association for the Blind at Albany’s Board of Directors.

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