Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is a common eye condition that threatens vision and general health. While the cause of AMD remains contested, this eye disease damages the macula, progressively blurring your central vision. AMD is among the leading cause of blindness and primarily affects adults aged 60 years and above. Apart from advancing age, several other factors and health issues can cause AMD. The following tips can help you reduce the risk of developing AMD.
1. Quit smoking
Smoking is among the many causes of vision loss from AMD. Smoking exacerbates the progression of AMD by altering the blood supply to the eye and causing oxidative damage to the retina. As such, smokers are five times more likely to develop this disease than non-smokers. Smoking increases oxidant concentration in blood and the eyes, making AMD treatment interventions ineffective.
Smoking is a modifiable predisposing risk factor for AMD. Therefore, you should consider quitting to maintain a good vision, even in your later years. Unfortunately, quitting smoking can prove challenging, especially for long-term smokers. More than 90% of Americans have unsuccessfully attempted to quit smoking. If you are among this percentage, you shouldn’t give up yet. While it takes time, the benefits of smoking cessation to your health and vision are worth it.
2. Increase antioxidants in your diet
Increasing the consumption of antioxidants can prevent the development and progression of AMD. Antioxidants are foods or supplements that destroy free radicals in the body. Free radicals are toxic compounds that kill body cells through oxidation. The eye, especially the retina, is very vulnerable to oxidative stress from various free radicals in the blood.
Individuals with age macular degeneration often experience significant oxidative stress in the eyes and throughout the body. If left unchecked, oxidative stress irreversibly damages the macula and impairs the body’s natural ability to excrete the damaged cells. That said, you should include food items rich in antioxidants in your diet. Foods with high concentrations of antioxidants include green leafy vegetables, green peas, carrots, pumpkin, asparagus, and broccoli.
3. Reduce carb intake
Reducing your carb intake also significantly slows or stops the progression of AMD. Simple carbohydrates made from refined flour and white sugar, such as sweetened drinks, pastries, cookies, white bread, and sugar, have a notably high glycemic index. Such carbs cause uncontrolled increase and decrease in blood sugar levels, which triggers inflammation in various body organs.
A study found that consuming diets with high glycemic index increases the risk of developing age macular degeneration by 39%. Conversely, low-carb diets reduce the risk of AMD and slow progression. Therefore, besides smoking cessation, switching from simple to complex carbs is an easy way of reducing the risk of developing AMD. Complex carbohydrates are fiber-rich.
This means they are metabolized slowly in the digestive system, which naturally regulates the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the diet, preventing uncontrolled fluctuations in sugar levels. Complex carbohydrates to include in the diet include whole grains, beans and legumes, fiber-rich veggies, and fiber-rich fruits.
4. Maintain your blood pressure
High blood pressure or hypertension restricts blood supply to the choroid (vascular layer of the eye), promoting the progression of AMD. Reduced oxygen supply to the eye doubles the risk of central vision loss and accelerates AMD progression. Several studies have shown that antihypertensive medications, such as beta-blockers, ACE inhibitors, and ARBs, reduce the risk of early AMD by 25% and late AMD by 23%.
You should also try other options for maintaining normal blood pressure levels besides antihypertensive drugs. Lifestyle changes and adopting healthy habits to reduce your blood pressure levels also decrease the risk of AMD. This includes establishing a regular exercise routine and weight loss strategies for obese people.
5. Wear sunglasses
While there’s no direct link between sun exposure and AMD, continuous exposure to UV radiation from the sun causes retinal damage, which accelerates the progression of AMD and cataracts. You should wear sunglasses with a UV 400 rating to eliminate these risks. These sunglasses block light rays with wavelengths above 400 nanometers.
Optometrists recommend the use of cocoon eyeglasses, which wrap around your face as they prevent penetration of light rays from the side. Apart from UV radiation, you should also avoid blue light emitted by the sun and electronic devices, such as digital TVs and computers. High-intensity blue light produced by LED screens has damaging effects. You should minimize exposure to these devices, especially at night. Using screen covers and approved anti-blue light glasses also prevents eye damage.
The Bottom Line
Unlike other eye diseases, underlying genetics and lifestyle choices primarily influence age-related macular degeneration. Therefore, your lifestyle and habit preferences can vary your risk of developing AMD. Quitting smoking, avoiding simple carbs, and maintaining blood pressure and body weight can reduce AMD risks. You should also schedule regular eye checkups and tests.