Seniors are at heightened risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness among older Americans. The disease damages central vision, limiting a person’s ability to read, write and recognize faces.
Fortunately, there are steps people can take to lower their risk of losing vision due to AMD. As Valentine’s Day approaches, the American Academy of Ophthalmology wants to remind seniors that their eyes need love too. It is providing the following five eye-loving tips to protect against AMD-related vision loss:
1) Quit smoking.
Numerous studies show smoking increases the risk of developing AMD, and the speed at which it progresses. If you smoke, you are twice as likely to develop macular degeneration compared with a nonsmoker.
2) Know your family history.
If you have a close relative with AMD, you have a 50 percent chance of developing the condition. Before your next eye exam, speak with your family about their eye health history. Catching AMD early could better your chances of saving your sight!
3) Eat healthy.
Eat a diet rich in omega-3s and low in cholesterol and saturated fat. Studies show people who had a reduced risk of AMD had diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish. Studies show increased AMD risk in individuals who had a higher intake of saturated fats and cholesterol.
4) Exercise regularly.
Many studies show getting regular exercise can benefit your eyes. One study found that exercising three times a week reduced the risk of developing wet AMD, the more serious form of the disease, by 70 percent.
5) Have regular eye exams.
People with early-stage AMD may not have any obvious symptoms. However, an ophthalmologist — a physician specializing in medical and surgical eye care — can detect early signs of eye disease through comprehensive eye exams. The American Academy of Ophthalmology recommends people over age 65 get exams every one to two years.
Seniors may qualify for EyeCare America, a public service program of the American Academy of Ophthalmology that offers exams and care, often at no out-of-pocket cost for eligible individuals age 65 and older. Visit www.eyecareamerica.org to see if you qualify.
“There is still a worrying lack of awareness when it comes to AMD, despite it being the number one cause of blindness in seniors,” says Rahul N. Khurana, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “Older Americans who are unaware of the disease may be putting themselves at risk by not taking early steps to care for their vision. The good news is that they protect their sight from AMD-related blindness by showing their eyes some TLC with regular eye exams and lifestyle changes.”