Healthy Living with Macular Degeneration
People who are visually impaired benefit from a healthy lifestyle that contributes to overall well-being. This includes regular exercise-adjusted to ensure safety-and a nutritious diet that may help protect remaining vision.
On this page, you will find the following:
Healthy Lifestyle, Healthy Eyes
The following suggestions will help protect your vision, improve your overall health, and potentially lower your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration:
- Eat a varied and nutritious diet that includes leafy green vegetables, fruit, fish, and foods containing vitamins D, E, and C, beta carotene, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids. (Read below for more information on healthy “vision” foods.)
- Get regular exercise.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Keep blood pressure at a normal level and control other medical conditions.
- Do not smoke.
- Prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing wide-brimmed hats and high quality sunglasses that have 99- to 100-percent UVA and UVB protection.
- Regularly visit an eye doctor for comprehensive eye exams.
- Perform Amsler grid tests at home.
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"Vision" Foods to Include in your Diet
- Dark green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables. These contain carotenoids, which may defend against a number of medical conditions, including age-related macular degeneration. Lutein and zeaxanthin are two especially important carotenoids related to vision health. They are found in dark, leafy greens such as spinach, collard greens, and kale, as well as in yellow corn, okra, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, mango, green beans, sweet potatoes, lima beans, squash, green, yellow and orange bell pepper, and egg yolks.
- Fruits and vegetables abundant in vitamin C, including green peppers, citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, sweet and white potatoes, leafy greens, and cantaloupe.
- Eggs, fortified cereals, fruit, wheat germ, green leafy vegetables, nuts, nut oils, vegetable oils, and whole grains. These all contain vitamin E.
- Wild salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, and flaxseed oil. These are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Whole grain versions of pasta (sometimes called “brown pasta), rice, and bread that contain complex carbohydrates, which are metabolized more slowly and are healthier than their “white” counterparts.
- White rice, bread, and pasta have a high glycemic index, meaning that the carbohydrates are broken down rapidly into glucose or blood sugar. They provide quick energy but contain few nutrients and little fiber, and in large amounts they may damage cells. Some studies have shown that eating foods with a high glycemic index may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration.
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Special Vitamins for Dry Age-Related Macular Degeneration
The National Eye Institute's (NEI) Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) found that taking a specific high dose formula of antioxidants and zinc (500 milligrams of vitamin C, 400 International Units of vitamin E, 15 milligrams of beta-carotene, 80 milligrams of zinc as zinc oxide, and two milligrams of copper as cupric oxide) may delay or prevent intermediate age-related macular degeneration from progressing to the advanced stage. The antioxidant vitamins and minerals in the AREDS formula help maintain healthy cells and tissues and may prevent damage in the macula. There is no evidence, however, that the AREDS formula provided any benefit to people with early stage age-related macular degeneration. Patients with intermediate macular degeneration in one or both eyes or advanced macular degeneration (dry or wet) in one eye but not the other eye should consider taking the formula. Always consult a doctor before taking any supplements. The AREDS formula may be contra-indicated due to other medical conditions or other medications.
The NEI is conducting the AREDS-2 clinical trials focused on the addition of lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids to the original AREDS formula. Researchers are interested in the effect these supplements have on the progression to advanced age-related macular degeneration and/or moderate vision loss in those at risk of progression. Participants will also be offered variations on levels of beta-carotene and zinc that were included in the original AREDS formula. The reasons for this adjustment is that the zinc was thought to cause genitourinary problems that required hospitalization in a small percentage of the original AREDS trial participants, and beta-carotene supplementation is not recommended for consumption by smokers or ex-smokers due to the increased risk of lung cancer. The estimated AREDS2 trial data collection and primary outcome measure completion date is December 2012. Scientists will follow up for at least five years.
“Living with Macular Degeneration” and other useful publications can be found on our website at www.brightfocus.org/macularpubs.
Disclaimer: The information provided is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to constitute medical advice. It should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional. Please consult your physician for personalized medical advice; all medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision. BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.
Last Review: 04/26/13