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How to Slow the Progression of Macular Degeneration

How to Slow the Progression of Macular Degeneration


Genetics and aging are two significant risk factors for developing age related macular degeneration. While neither of these factors can be controlled, there are measures you can take to prevent or slow the progression of macular degeneration.

Prevention through Diet

A balanced diet that includes an abundance of foods that contain carotenoids, vitamins C and E, and omega-3 fatty acids is essential to promoting retinal health. [1] Research is indicating that the cartenoids found in dark green leafy vegetables are especially promising. [2]

Carotenoids such as lutein and zeaxanthin have been linked to vision.  Lutein is found in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and collard greens as well as broccoli, green beans and sweet potatoes.  Zeaxanthin is found in corn, squash, and oranges.

Vitamin C can also be found in green leafy vegetables as well as citrus fruits, broccoli, tomatoes, and strawberries.

Vitamin E abundant foods include green leafy vegetables, nuts, eggs, and whole grains.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids sources include tuna, salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed oil.

Fatty Diets Directly Related to Macular Degeneration

Eating a diet high in fat is positively associated with the risk of age related macular degeneration.  Adversely, adding fatty fish to your diet-including tuna, mackerel, or salmon-two or three times every week was shown to reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration as well as slow the progression of the disease.  [3]

The AREDS Formulation

The addition of a cocktail of antioxidants and zinc has been shown in clinical studies to reduce the risk of developing the advanced form of age-related macular degeneration by twenty-five percent.  The formulation, created by the researchers that conducted the Age Related Eye Disease Study, includes vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, zinc oxide, and cupric zinc.  Though the formulation was not shown to prevent early signs of AMD, it was effective for slowing the progression of advanced AMD for those at high risk.  Due to the high doses of vitamins, this preventative treatment should be prescribed and supervised by a physician. [4]

Lifestyle Changes Imperative for Slowing Progression

Particular behaviors such as smoking and alcohol consumption contribute to the risk of developing AMD.  Studies have concluded that leading an overall healthier lifestyle can reduce AMD risk three-fold. [5]

Alcohol: Moderate alcohol consumption may contribute to early AMD.  Those that consume more than 20 g of alcohol per day increase their risk of developing early AMD by twenty percent.  The study determined that the risks were the same for beer, wine, and spirits. [6]

Smoking: Those that smoke increase their risk of developing AMD two to five times.  Smoking both decreases the oxygen to the blood vessels required by the retina as well as causes oxidative damage to the eye.  The risk of developing late onset age related macular degeneration remains elevated for up to twenty years even for former smokers. [7]

Exercise: Those that exercise or are physically active reduce the risk of developing AMD two-fold. [8]

Managing Health Conditions: Certain health conditions can increase the risk of developing AMD such as high blood pressure and obesity.  Those with a BMI over 30 are two-and-a-half times more likely to be affected by the disease.[8]

Additional Measures to Prevent or Delay Macular Degeneration

In addition to diet, you can also take these simple measures to protect your vision:

  • Wear sunglasses that block UVB rays
  • Have regular eye examinations
  • Schedule regular eye examinations


[1][8] American Health Assistance Foundation (AHAF)
Macular Degeneration Risk Factors and Prevention

[2] Journal of the American Optometric Association
Dietary prevention of age-related macular degeneration
70.1 (1999): 39-47. Print.

[3] American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Cho, Eunyoung
Prospective study of dietary fat and the risk of age-related macular degeneration
73.2 (2001): 209-218. Print.

[4] National Eye Institute US National Institutes of Health
The AREDS Formulation and Age-Related Macular Degeneration

[5][8] Medscape
Lifestyle Changes May Avert Age-Related Macular Degeneration

[6] American Journal of Epidemiology, Madeline KM Adams
20/20 Alcohol and Age-Related Macular Degeneration
[7] American Federation for Aging Research
Age-related Macular Degeneration


Glossary of Terms

Antioxidant: a substance that may protect your cells against the effects of free radicals.
Medline Plus 

Carotenoids: a group of more than 700 fat soluble nutrients that produce the colors in foods such as carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, and other deep green, yellow, orange, and red fruits and vegetables.
University of Maryland Medical Center

Genetics: a branch of biology that deals with the heredity and variation of organisms.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary

Expert Opinion

Quote: “Here’s the good news about AMD though: early dry AMD can be prevented, slowed, and even reversed with diet and lifestyle changes. In its earliest stages, progression to blindness can be prevented with appropriate nutritional interventions.”

Source:  Michael A Samuel, M.D. Macular Degeneration: A Complete Guide for Patients and Their Families

Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health, 2008. Print


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