Age-related macular degeneration is a common eye disease, and it is the leading cause of vision loss among people 50 and older. While age-related macular degeneration rarely causes complete blindness, central vision is affected, leading to increased interference in daily activities, such as reading and driving.
The number of people with age-related macular degeneration is projected to double by 2050. Certain lifestyle choices can help prevent or delay the development of age-related macular degeneration.
Smoking increases the development of age-related macular degeneration up to four times over that of nonsmokers. Researchers say smoking can negatively affect the vascular system and increase inflammation, which affects eye health. Tobacco is also linked to the body’s inability to absorb lutein, which is an important antioxidant that protects the retina.
Eat a Healthy Diet
A diet rich in minerals and antioxidants protects against the development and progress of age-related macular degeneration. Green, leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale and collard greens, along with a colorful array of fruits, like strawberries, cantaloupe and blueberries, contain critical antioxidants that contribute to eye health. Eating fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids and limiting saturated fat also helps protect against age-related macular degeneration. A healthy diet not only helps protect the eyes but also contributes to overall health and wellness.
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Regular and moderate aerobic exercise may reduce the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration occurs when the macula is damaged. The macula is the most sensitive part of the retina and is made up of light-sensing nerve cells.Exercise not only decreases inflammation, which damages these nerve cells, but increases the presence of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, a protein that promotes the growth, survival and possible regeneration of nerve cells. Committing to regular and moderate aerobic activity can protect the structure and function of your eye’s nerve cells, decreasing your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
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Protect Your Eyes Outdoors
Ultraviolet (UV) light can damage the retina and speed up age-related macular degeneration. Wear a hat and sunglasses outdoors, even on overcast days. UV light passes through cloud cover and can be just as or even more dangerous to the eyes. Look for sunglasses that protect against both UV-A and UV-B rays, and, ideally, wrap around your face. A Johns Hopkins study found that typical sunglasses allowed up to 20 percent of the sun’s rays to “leak” through to the eyes.
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