TORONTO, July 27, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Probably the most worrisome health concern for Baby Boomers as they age is the increased possibility of visual impairment or vision loss. For this reason, early detection is critical in successfully preventing and treating eye conditions such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma and diabetic retinopathy, before they lead to major visual changes.
Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of visual impairment and blindness in the greying population for which there are no definitive medical treatments. Macular degeneration destroys the central vision by damaging a part of the retina called the macula, leaving peripheral vision unaffected. Symptoms include dim or blurry central vision, a blank or blind spot, objects appearing distorted or smaller than they are, and trouble with tasks like reading or driving.
While the cause of macular degeneration is not fully understood, there is some thought that it is partially caused by free-radical damage to the retina. Macular degeneration is caused by hardening of the arteries that nourish the retina. There are two classifications of macular degeneration: dry and wet. New abnormal blood vessels form rapidly behind the retina in wet AMD, leaking damage-causing blood and fluid to the macula. Medical treatment may include laser surgery, injectable drugs, or photocoagulation. In contrast, dry macular degeneration, which progresses slowly, is caused by build-up of drusen, small yellow deposits that form within the layer of the retina, and loss of pigment. Its advancement can be further slowed or halted by taking high doses of specific nutrients and antioxidants. These include the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin found in high concentrations in the retina but especially concentrated in the macula, vitamins A, C, and E, along with the minerals copper and zinc, as low dietary zinc levels appear to be related to an increased risk for developing AMD. In addition, a recent study1, summarized by the DHA/EPA Omega-3 Institute on its website, reveals that higher intakes of DHA/EPA and fish containing long-chain omega-3 fatty acids were related to a decreased occurrence of macular degeneration in women.
Cataracts, a clouding of the lens in the eye, are another leading cause of vision loss. More than 2.5 million Canadians have cataracts. Symptoms include blurred or hazy vision, poor vision at night or in bright light, dulling or change in colour vision, loss of contrast, or seeing "ghost" images. Most cataracts are related to aging, but can be a side effect of diabetes. Cataract formation appears to be partially caused by a faulty antioxidant defense system due to a deficiency in the body's master antioxidant, glutathione. Supplementing with vitamins C, E and the mineral selenium, along with alpha lipoic acid can help increase glutathione levels. Interestingly, cataract patients tend also to be deficient in the antioxidants of lutein, zeaxanthin and vitamin A.
Though our eyes may be the window of our soul, it is the simple act of looking out a window with healthy eyes that matters most. Through preventative measures including a healthy diet filled with a colourful array of fresh fruit and vegetables rich in antioxidants, and the addition of select natural health supplements, vision health can be maintained to ensure the glow of our golden years is filled with the colours of the rainbow.
Dietary Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Fish Intake and Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Women
Christen, W. G. et al., Arch. Ophthamol., in press, 2011
Div. of Preventive Medicine and Aging, Dept. of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
Michele Sevier Biography
Michele Sevier, DNM, DAc, is an educator and advocate of natural health and healing. As an independent advisor to Nutrition House, she is actively involved in many facets of integrative medicine including research, the formulation of specialized supplements, and providing natural health solutions to the general public through Nutrition House's 'Ask Our Expert' service at www.nutritionhouse.com.