Your vision and eye health are vulnerable to many different diseases as you age. Cancer, glaucoma, and cataracts can all impair your eyesight and require strenuous treatments. However, the number one cause of vision impairment in later years is age-related macular degeneration (AMD). For 2.1 million Americans each year, this gradual disease damages the macula and the rest of the retina. It affects your central field of vision which makes tasks you’ve done your whole life nearly impossible. Luckily, there are a few key ways to prevent AMD and maintain your eye health as you age.
1. Balanced Diet
The first step to preventing AMD is eating a balanced diet. The foods you put in your body directly impact your eyes’ functions. There are a variety of nutrients for eye health you need to consume daily, but the most important is antioxidants.
AMD is affected by your amount of macular pigment. These pigments help neutralize free radicals in your eyes and prevent retinal damage. You can encourage the defense against free radical damage by consuming antioxidants. These important nutrients also called carotenoids, maintain the thickness and health of your retina and macula. You can find antioxidants in berries, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, artichokes, and more.
Due to allergies and other dietary restrictions, some people can’t get all their eye health nutrients through their diet. Seniors can also struggle to get all their nutrients from their diet because of appetite loss, medication interactions, and memory issues. Luckily, natural supplements make it easy for these people to maintain a balanced diet. Supplements for antioxidants, chromium, lutein, selenium, and other important nutrients will ensure you’re taking the right steps to protect your eyes from AMD. To make it even easier, you can take a supplement specifically created for natural eye health. Ocu-Plus Formula has all 17 crucial eye health nutrients and contains no preservatives.
Obesity is a factor that contributes to developing AMD, and a slew of other health issues. By exercising regularly, you improve your blood circulation, weight, and cholesterol levels. Doctors recommend getting active at least three times per week. You could go for walks, runs, or join a workout class. A mix of cardio, strength building and flexibility will make for successful exercise that reduces your risk for AMD.
4. Regular Checkups
When was the last time you had your eyes checked? Even if you don’t need glasses or you’re happy with your prescription, you need to see an ophthalmologist regularly. Eye doctors can notice symptoms of underlying conditions before you do. It’s common for them to observe symptoms of diabetes, autoimmune diseases, and cancer in your eyes. Early detection leads to early treatment of many diseases. They’ll also notice signs of AMD. The earlier you detect AMD, the sooner you can treat it and prevent its progression. It’s recommended for people over the age of 60 to get checked annually. Those under 60 can wait a couple years between checkups.
5. Learn About Your Genes
Family history plays a role in your chance of getting AMD. There are over 20 genes that increase your chances of developing AMD. If people in your family have had AMD and have passed these genes on to you, your risk is higher. Genes are far from the only factor that causes AMD but knowing you have them can motivate you to reduce the other factors related to lifestyle choices. Do a survey of your older family members’ eye conditions to see if you might be at a higher risk.
6. Stop Smoking
People who smoke cigarettes double their risk of developing AMD. Those who already have the early stages of AMD will speed up its progression by smoking cigarettes. One study even states that smokers are four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers. The best tip for this risk factor is to avoid smoking in the first place and quit if you’ve already started. Not only does it increase your chances of AMD, it increases your chances of other eye issues like cataracts and glaucoma.
7. Balance Your Blood Pressure
Healthy eyes and vision depend on the ability of your blood to flow to all the important parts of your eyes. If there’s a block in your blood vessels, like a cholesterol build-up, the blood flow is impeded which leads to damage in your eyes. High or low blood pressure can also affect your eyes and increase your risk of developing AMD. One key step of prevention is keeping your blood pressure and cholesterol levels in check. You can do this by avoiding foods high in cholesterol (like bacon and eggs), exercising, not smoking cigarettes, and reducing stress.
8. Protect Your Eyes from UV Radiation and Blue Light
Exposure to UV rays from the sun can damage your eyes and cause AMD. Your macula is especially vulnerable to UV rays and needs to be protected. Since UV damage is cumulative, this step is a lifelong choice. You need to protect your eyes whenever you’re outside or when using devices with blue light. Blue light is the harsh light from most cellphone and laptop screens. You can protect yourself by wearing sunglasses that block UVA and UVB rays and putting anti-blue light films on your device screens.
9. Amsler Grid Test
If you’ve been diagnosed with an early stage of AMD, it’s important to monitor its progression. One way you can do this is by using the Amsler Grid Test every day. This test is a square grid with a dark dot in the center. With one eye covered, stare at the dot while holding the grid about a foot away from your face. As you stare at the center, notice if any parts of the grid appear blurry or wavy. Do this exercise on the other eye as well. If you notice that the grid starts to appear blurrier or wavier, see your ophthalmologist right away. The Amsler Grid Test allows you to track this disease and help the doctor know when certain treatments are needed.