Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration (MD) is an eye disorder affecting more than 13 million Americans, and is generally considered to be irreversible. In fact, more people are affected by MD than by glaucoma and cataracts combined. It is the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 55, with a new case of age-related macular degeneration (AMD) diagnosed every three minutes.

Macular degeneration refers to the breakdown of the macula – the central portion of the retina. The function of the retina is to receive visual images, to partially analyze them and transmit the information to the brain. The macula contains the most concentrated collection of light-sensing nerves in the retina and is responsible for producing the most critical aspects of vision. There is a rich supply of blood vessels that carry oxygen and important nutrients to the retina that are required for healthy vision, and disruption of this vasculature can be a contributing factor in MD. The retina has no pain nerve fibers, therefore most diseases that affect the retina do not cause pain.

Recommended Lifestyle Changes

*Don’t smoke and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.

*Protect your eyes. Be sure to wear sunglasses that contain UV protection.

*Follow a diet that is very low in saturated fat and rich in antioxidants,focusing on vegetables, fruit, and legumes including soy, whole grains and fish.

*Eat antioxidant-rich berries, especially blueberries, frequently.

*Increase your intake of antioxidants such as vitamins C and E, lutein and zinc.
Nutrition and Supplements

Try to choose foods or take supplements that contain vitamin C, vitamin E and lutein, as well as zinc. Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits, melons, tomatoes, potatoes and broccoli. You can get vitamin E from soybeans, greens, fish, wheat germ, nuts and seeds. Dietary sources of zinc are legumes (peas, dried beans, garbanzos/chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils and soy products) and whole grains. The carotenoid pigment lutein is found naturally in spinach, kale, collard greens, romaine lettuce and peas. Other protective compounds are the red and purple pigments found in berries and other fruit. Eat berries, especially blueberries, often. You can also get these pigments into your diet with supplements of bilberry, grape seed extract or pine bark extract. My recommendations for daily vitamin E are to take 400-800 IU of natural mixed tocopherols, or at least 80 mg of natural mixed tocopherols and tocotrienols. People under 40 should take 400 IUs a day; people over 40, 800 IUs.

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