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February is Age Related Macular Degeneration/Low Vision Awareness Month!

“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.”

Hellen Keller

Pixino


The Eyes

I’m sure you heard the expression “The eyes are the windows to the soul”. Eyes can communicate a plethora of information including insight into people's emotional state. From furrowed brows to clear bright eyes, one can access the overall mood of someone if they are paying attention to the clear signs in front of them. Eyes can also portray the current quality of health one is experiencing. Changes in the eyes and vision can be warning signs of stress, retinal detachment, diabetes or age related macular degeneration. If you wake up with your eyes strained one day or didn’t get enough sleep the past few nights, you don’t have to make an emergency appointment with your Ophthalmologist….but…it might be a good exercise to keep track of how your eyes look and feel so you become familiar with them and notice any difference in the skin around our eyes, increased sensitivity or vision loss. Let's dive into one the most common eye issues as we age.

What Is Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD)?

AMD or age related macular degeneration affects more than 10 million Americans and is the leading cause of vision loss in people ages 50 and over. Currently this is considered an incurable disease of the eyes.


The retina’s central portion of the eye is called the macula. The macula is in charge of focusing central vision in the eye. This means that our ability to drive, read, recognize faces or colors and distinguish details in objects are all managed by the central vision.


Drugwatch


Macular degeneration occurs when the central portion of the retina begins to deteriorate. This deterioration interrupts highly detailed images collected through the macula which then sends them up the optic nerve to the brain where they are translated as sight. So what happens now? With deterioration, the images are not received and processed correctly.


Macular degeneration does not affect vision in the earlier stages. As the disease advances, one may experience blurred vision, and possibly lose all central vision. Once central vision is lost, it would be considered “legally blind.” You would still maintain peripheral vision but please keep in mind that this is not as clear as central vision. The picture below is a good example of what a person suffering from AMD may experience..


All About Eyes


Dry AMD

This is the most common type of AMD. About 80% of people diagnosed have “Dry AMD.” With age, the macula becomes thinner and produces tiny clumps of yellow proteins under the retina. This will slowly cause a decline in central vision.


Wet AMD

This is the more serious and less common type of AMD. This occurs when irregular blood vessels grow under the retina and leak blood and other fluids leading to scarring of the macula. Blurred vision is usually reported first. There is no cure for Dry or Wet AMD.


Eye Care Center of Ocala


Am I At Risk?

With any potential health issues affecting the population, it’s normal to ask yourself…”Am I at risk?” Below are some risk factors to be aware of for AMD.

  • Inadequate diet (low intake of fresh fruits and veggies as antioxidants)

  • Obesity (you see this a lot in my posts but it’s always helpful to try to maintain a BMI below 30)

  • Smoking (please refer to the of Cholesterol Month of September 2021 issue for more info on smoking)

  • High cholesterol (consume a lot of saturated fat in your diet i.e meat, butter and cheese)

  • Hypertension and heart disease

  • No eye protection on sunny days (wear your shades)

  • Lighter colored eyes

  • If you are over 50 years of age

  • Family history of AMD

  • Caucasian


What Can I Do To Be Proactive?

The most common answer would be to get your eyes checked by your Ophthalmologist at least on an annual basis if you're under the age of 50. But having access to an eye doctor is not always easy and not always at the top of the list of annual doctor visits. You can also read through a few of the references below for more information regarding eye health and possible eye doctors in your area. One annual visit can help you to stay on top of any vision or eye health changes that might be happening even without your immediate knowledge.


Nutrition & Eye Health

Since AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50, you want to make sure your diet is working for you and not against you. I can say this about any health issue because what you put into your body…does matter!


Let’s begin where we have so many times over the past two years….fruits and vegetables are king! This is because they are rich sources of antioxidants and combat free radicals in your body. Free radicals can damage healthy cells and over time, they can lead to heart disease, diabetes, cancer and vision loss. So….load up your plate with plenty of fruits, veggies, even nuts BUT (make sure the nuts are unsalted and only eat 1 ounce a day since they are high in fat).


You can also find antioxidants in supplemental form. A few examples are:

  • Beta-carotene

  • Lutein

  • Lycopene

  • Selenium

  • Vitamin A

  • Vitamin C

  • Vitamin E

Take a look at the chart below to get a bit more familiar with some food sources and their health benefits. Even if eye health isn’t particularly mentioned, you should still try to include that food item into your diet. The system (your body) is all connected and every time you choose a piece of fruit over a baked good, your body, waist and overall health will thank you.

What Are Phytonutrients? (n.d.).


Resources

Below are a few helpful sources for you to review if you are interested in doing more research about AMD and nutrition.



Including your favorite fruits and veggies (and throw in some dark leafy greens) to simply wearing some sunglasses and getting your annual eye check-up can do wonders, not just for your eyes but for your overall health and peace of mind. Don't worry if you haven't eaten a plate of salad in a while or it has been years since you've gone to the eye doctor....every day is a fresh start and never too late to make small changes. And Remember….Health starts from the inside out….but also from the ground up!

To discuss more detailed information regarding the topics within this blog, or to inquire about customized nutrition plans, please reach out to Cathleen Winter at wellnesswithin.cw@gmail.com


A Little About Me

My name is Mary DeBlasio, and I live in Silver Spring, MD. I am currently a student studying Nutrition and Dietetics at the University of the District of Columbia. I graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s of Science in May of 2021. I am very interested in mindful eating, and foods that correlate with the seasons. My goal after graduation is to pursue a dietetic internship with a focus on clinical dietetics. I would like to concentrate on patients suffering from gastrointestinal issues. All my information is backed by credible sources cited within the blog.


Sources

AMD (age-related macular degeneration). Prevent Blindness. (2022, January 24).


Boyd, K. (2021, June 14). What is macular degeneration? American Academy of Ophthalmology.


Diet and age-related macular degeneration. Diet, Age & Macular Degeneration - Brigham and Women's Hospital. (n.d.).


Health, A. (2019, February 27). The importance of eye health. Adventist Health.


What is macular degeneration? - AMDF. American Macular Degeneration Foundation. (2017, December 20).



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