Age related macular degeneration or ARMD, is a serious and sometimes devastating condition that affects 1% of those over age 70, and 15% of those over 90 years of age. ARMD is diagnosed by examination of the macula using an opthalmoscope. Although it is rare for people under the age of 55 to experience this problem, everyone can make changes to their lifestyle that will decrease their risk of developing this disease or slow down its progression.
What is it?
Simply put, ARMD is when the macula, or center of the retina, deteriorates and adversely affects vision. There are two types of ARMD:
- “Dry” macular degeneration is usually characterized by a deterioration of vision in the center of the eye. This is generally gradual.
- “Wet” macular degeneration is when the blood vessels grow under the retina which results in the eye
Who is at risk?
- People over the age of 55
- Those with a family history of ARMD
- Obese people
- People who have cardiovascular disease
- Those with high cholesterol
How can I prevent it?
Adopting a healthier lifestyle will lower one’s risk of developing ARMD.
Quitting smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight will help quite a bit. Abdominal obesity in particular puts you at a higher risk. Regular exercise will decrease your risk, and will help you lose weight if that is one of your risk factors.
Nutrition plays a major role in the prevention of ARMD
- Avoid saturated fat such as trans fat, which is found in processed baked goods. Consume unsaturated fat such as that found in olive oil.
- Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Collard greens and spinach both contain lutein, which has been found to be one of the most protective antioxidants for your eye health. Also, a high consumption of fruit, or 3 to 5 servings a day, is associated with a lower risk of ARMD. Aim for a “rainbow” of color in your fruit and vegetable choices.
- Antioxidant supplements are also a weapon against ARMD, but speak with your doctor first. Beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer in smokers, and high doses of Vitamin E may increase your cardiovascular risk. Your doctor will know which supplements would be beneficial to you, and which you should avoid.