Complex and sensitive organs, our eyes respond to and express our general wellbeing, but poor health decisions can take many years before becoming obvious, and prevention is the only cure. By Lani Lopez
The most common eye condition is Age-Related Macular Degeneration (AMD) affecting around 30 million worldwide, with 25% of people aged over 70 years affected. AMD doesn't cause total blindness but brings significant daily impairment, robbing the sufferer of central vision and taking with it quality and enjoyment of life.
AMD is most common among people of European descent, with those at particular risk being adults with: diabetes, uncontrolled high blood pressure, family history of AMD, digestive difficulties and compromised immune system.
There is no current cure or treatment for AMD and most medical advice on the condition comes packaged with information on how to cope with progressive vision loss and the depression that habitually accompanies it. We can consider ourselves pre-warned and hopefully motivated to take action and implement the only cure: prevention.
Removing Risk Factors
Ongoing eye-health takes simple steps to support general good health and wellbeing with some specific supplementation from age 60 on. It comes down to two areas: nutrition and lifestyle. The easiest risk factor to remove is smoking, which increases the risk of AMD by 200-300%. Aggravating factors in AMD include some prescription drugs.
If you are consistently prescribed non-steroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAI) drugs, discuss this with your doctor and ensure that from age 50 onwards you have regular eye exams, looking for early signs and precursors of AMD including fine drusen (yellow or white residue) and mild pigment changes. Growing evidence links AMD and heart risk factors like obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cholesterol. Target these with diet (see below) and especially with habitual exercise.
Do at least 20 minutes aerobic exercise daily. Walking and swimming are low-impact and effective. Take sun protection, wear blue-blocking sunglasses and hats that shade the eyes in bright conditions.
Nutrition is necessary
Poor digestion and the inability to absorb needed nutrients has been identified in two earlier Element articles (bone health and bowel disorders). There is a growing awareness of the link with eye health.?Natural health practitioners have long linked the eyes with the healthy function of our internal organs (in traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years). This link is increasingly recognised in more recent pharmaceutical-based medicine.
Sufferers of macular degeneration lack nutrients essential to eye health: antioxidants, selenium, essential fatty acids, lutein and zeaxanthin (both from beta carotene and vitamin A), bioflavenoids, zinc, taurine, and vitamin B-complex.
Naturopaths recommend a diet rich in specific fresh fruits, (see break out boxes, right) green leafy vegetables and oily fish for eye health, supported by supplementation. The AMDF (American Macular Degeneration Federation) too suggests specific foods (see break-out box).
Alternative Strategies?In the US Dr. Fred Lisanti of Integrated Medical Solutions in New York and Dr. Edward Kondrot, board certified ophthalmologist and director of The Healing Eye and Wellness Center in Arizona, have claimed success with homeopathic treatments. Dr. Fred Lisanti promotes "a multi-level program starting with very subtle cell salt remedies.
These are often ingested sublingually, tastelessly dissolved." Specific cell salts he suggests could be helpful: Calc fluorica, Calc phosphoric, Kali phosphoric and Natrum muriaticum. These are available from your naturopath or homeopath.
Seeing a Healthy Future
There are eye exercises we should all do that help maintain good clear vision, restore some impairment and can give vital indicators of early stages in eye conditions. I outline these in the next Element newsletter, so sign up.
Eye health is precious and not guaranteed but adjusting your lifestyle and diet to include these simple preventive measures makes all the difference. If you recognise any of the risk factors and are over 50 get a specific AMD eye check and discuss this condition with your GP. Take action now to see your way to a brighter future.
MACULAR DEGENERATION (AMD)
An eye condition and leading cause of vision loss common to people age 50 and older. The macula is the part of the eye providing sharp, central vision to see objects clearly. AMD is gradual and doesn't cause blindness, leaving peripheral vision untouched but reduces facial recognition and prevents reading, doing detailed work or driving.
Eyeing up antioxidants
The National Eye Institute (NEI) of the United States recommended a high-dose formulation of antioxidants, vitamins and zinc to hinder AMD progression:500 mg vitamin C400 iu vitamin E15 mg beta carotene (often vitamin A up to 25,000 IU) 80 mg of zinc 2 mg of copper
Kale, spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, beans, lettuce, peas, corn, tomatoes, grapefruit, peaches, papaya, melon, tangerines and oranges.
Aspartame, common in processed food or drinks labelled 'diet'.
Fried foods and MSG
Cut back caffeine, limit alcohol to 1-2 serves of red wine daily.
Man-made fats, corn oil, safflower oil, trans fats and hydrogenated vegetable oils like canola oil and especially margarine.
Lani Lopez BHSc AdvDipNatHealth is a Naturopath, Clinical Nutritionist and top-selling author.
Founder of lanilopez.com find her and talk wellbeing on: