Preventing Macular Degeneration

According to the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, macular degeneration is a condition that causes progressive damage to the central part of the retina.  This area, called the macula, is the most sensitive sensory part of the eye – it allows us to see fine details.  There are many steps you can take to prevent macular degeneration.

The Human Eye: Courtesy of the NIH National Eye Institute

The Human Eye: Courtesy of the NIH National Eye Institute

 

A newly published study from the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that supplementation with folic acid (2.5mg per day), vitamin B12 (1mg per day) and vitamin B6 (50mg per day) seems to have reduced the risk of macular degeneration by 40% after in the 10,000 women studied.  This approach is easy and affordable to achieve with a high-dose, high-potency multi-vitamin and folic acid liquid.

Risk factors for developing macular degeneration include aging, smoking, and a family history of macular degeneration.

Numerous nutrients in medical research are shown to be factors that may affectively reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration. These nutrients include:

  • zinc – an essential mineral (easily obtained from a multi-vitamin)
  • lutein & zeaxanthine – carotenoids like beta-carotene that are found in abundance in only one cup of spinach, kale, turnip greens and collards 
  • melatonin – a hormone that regulates sleep cycles

What do all of these things have in common besides preventing macular degeneration?  All of them are important anti-oxidants.  Why could anti-oxidants have a protective effect on macular degeneration?

First of all, the inherited gene mutation associated with macular degeneration prevents normal anti-inflammatory mechanisms in the eye from taking effect.  Unchecked inflammation can cause damage to any part of the body, including the macula.  Anti-oxidants reduce inflammation because they reduce oxidative damage to tissues (anti-oxidants neutralize oxidants.  Any kind of damage to tissues in the body encourages the inflammatory response.

Another theory is that sunlight causes oxidative damage to the macula.  It appears that when people spend plenty of time out doors during adolescents and young adulthood they have an increased risk of developing macular degeneration.  Having plenty of antioxidants helps to neutralize or quench the antioxidants that may occur in the retina with normal metabolism and normal exposure to sunlight. indicating that they reduce the risk of macular degeneration.  To protect your eyes, wear a hat or sunglasses to decrease exposure to light if outdoors for more than just a couple of hours per day.

There also seems to be some relationship between cardiovascular disease and the risk of macular degeneration.  Elevated blood pressure or a history of elevated blood pressure increases your risk.  This makes sense because the retina is a very fragile tissue with plenty of small blood vessels.

The Bottom Line:

Prevention of age-related macular degeneration can be very simple: eat greens regularly; protect your eyes when young; take a multi-vitamin to support your anti-oxidant and B-vitamin status; take additional folic acid; and keep your blood pressure healthy (ideally with a good diet and regular exercise).

Be Well,

Richard

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