Macular Degeneration affects 1 in 7 Australians over the age of 50 and is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in the country. It’s responsible for 50 per cent of all blindness; that’s more than glaucoma and cataracts combined. But how can our everyday diet improve our eye health?
What is Macular Degeneration?
The macula is the part of the eye, which is responsible for giving you the clearest vision. When Macular Degeneration occurs, the cells in this area become irreversibly damaged and the result is a loss of vision.
There are two forms of this condition – Wet Macular Degeneration and Dry Macular Degeneration. There is no cure for either type of Macular Degeneration right now, but your optometrist can give you a guide to the different treatment options that can help to reduce vision loss for Wet Macular Degeneration.
Why diet and vitamins are important for your eye health
Eating too many saturated fats have been shown increase the risk of Macular Degeneration. Saturated fat (the bad fats that have been linked to heart disease and cancers) is found in a lot of animal food products such as beef, pork, lamb, butter, cream and high fat cheeses, as well as fast food, takeaways and processed foods. On the plus side, people who enjoy a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and fish have a lower incidence of Macular Degeneration.
Protective plant pigments
Vegetables and fruits contain protective antioxidant vitamins, such as vitamin C, as well as antioxidant rich pigments, one of which is lutein. Lutein is an important antioxidant found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens (the darker the leaf, the more concentrated the pigments). Brightly coloured vegetables and fruits are especially rich in pigments – these include red grapes, oranges, rockmelons and mangoes and orange produce like carrots contain the pigment beta-carotene, which helps to protect your eyes. A serving is ½ cup of most foods, and one cup for leafy greens, so try and opt for five servings of veggies and two fruits daily.
Make more of fish
Eating fish has been proven to assist with healthy brain and heart function, but it is also good for your eye health and has been shown to lower the risk for Macular Degeneration. The recommended weekly intake of fish is two to three times, and the best types are oily and high in omega-3, such as salmon, sardines, trout and tuna. If you don’t eat fish, think about taking a daily omega-3 supplement.
What about supplements?
A special supplement for eye health may help to protect your eye health; it may help to reduce vision loss in people who have moderate Macular Degeneration. This it has not been shown to be beneficial in patients who do not have macular degeneration, or have only mild Macular Degeneration. Talk to your optometrist to find out more.
Stay away from the smokes
Granted, you don’t tend to eat cigarettes, but smokers have four times the risk of developing Macular Degeneration compared to past smokers or non-smokers and they may also develop the disease about 10 years earlier than non-smokers. Just another reason to stub out that bad habit.