Reducing Your Risk of Macular Degeneration
by Amy Scholten, MPH
There are no established guidelines for preventing adult macular degeneration. However, the following lifestyle changes may help keep your eyes healthy and reduce your risk of developing adult macular degeneration. Ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk of developing macular degeneration.
Eat a Diet That Is Low in Saturated Fat and Cholesterol
A diet that is high in saturated fat and cholesterol can cause plaque, a fatty substance, to build up on the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow in your eyes. Therefore, you should cut back on high-fat foods. Eat more lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and lots of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. Avoid eating fatty meats, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products. Also avoid using lots of butter, high-fat sauces, cheese, and cream.
Eating lots of fat-filled junk food may increase your risk of developing age-related macular degeneration. These foods often contain vegetable, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, and linoleic acid. They include margarine, chocolate, pies, cakes, cookies, potato chips, French fries, and other highly processed, store-bought junk foods.
Eat More Leafy Green and Yellow Vegetables
Two yellow pigments found in the macula, known as lutein and zeaxanthin, are thought to protect the macula from light damage and free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage cells in the body. They come from environmental sources, such as cigarette smoke, air pollutants, radiation, certain drugs, and toxins. They are also produced during normal body processes.
Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy and yellow vegetables. By eating large quantities of these vegetables, you may slow or prevent the progression of age-related macular degeneration.
Increase your Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake
Eating fish adds omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 is associated with a decreased risk of wet macular degeneration.
Protect Your Eyes from Ultraviolet (UV) Light and Blue Light
The primary source of UV light is sun. Other sources include video display terminals, fluorescent lightning, xenon, and high intensity mercury vapor lamps (used for night sports and in high crime areas). Sun and very bright lights can worsen macular degeneration. You should use sunglasses that protect against blue/violet and UV light. Sunglasses should be worn on overcast or hazy days, since you can still be exposed to a lot of UV light. UV protection is also available for clear lenses and doesn’t change the color of the glass.
Smoking can damage the eyes just like it causes damage to the rest of the body. Research suggests that people who smoke a pack or more of cigarettes per day, or smoke for a long time, have a high risk of developing macular degeneration. If you smoke, talk with your doctor about how you can quit.
Exercise contributes to overall good health. It helps improve circulation and may increase blood flow to the eyes.
Regular Eye Examinations
Schedule regular eye health examinations. Talk to your eye doctor about how often you should be tested for eye diseases, including adult macular degeneration.
Control Other Health Conditions
Adult macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at:
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Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at:http://www.dynamed.... Updated May 27, 2016. Accessed November 6, 2016.
Facts about age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at: https://nei.nih.gov/health/maculardegen/armd_facts. Accessed November 6, 2016.
SanGiovanni JP, Chew EY, Clemons TE, et al. The relationship of dietary lipid intake and age-related macular degeneration in a case-control study: AREDS Report No 20. Arch Ophthalmol. 2007;125A(5):671-679.
What is macular degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: https://www.macular.org/what-macular-degeneration. Accessed November 6, 2016.
3/11/2013 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Sesso HD, et al. Vitamins E and C and medical record-confirmed age-related macular degeneration in a randomized trial of male physicians. Ophthalmology. 2012;119(8):1642-1649.
Last reviewed November 2016 by Michael Woods, MD
Last Updated: 5/20/2015
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