Healthy Lifestyle Is Associated With Lower Risk Of Developing Age-Related Macular Degeneration

Simple lifestyle tips for eye health.*

Healthy lifestyle and balanced diet could help reduce the effect of risk factors associated with age-related eye problems, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract.

Quit smoking:

Smoking is a major and proven risk factor for eye problems, and can double the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is affecting more than 500,000 individuals in the UK. According to reports from AMD Alliance, in the UK an estimated 54,000 people have AMD as a result of smoking.

Smoking can reduce the protective effect of antioxidants in the eye. Low levels of antioxidants may increase risk of developing macular degeneration or AMD.

According to a recent research only a low proportion of smokers from the United Kingdom (9.7%), Canada (13.0%), and the United States (9.5%) believed that smoking can cause blindness.

However, because people are afraid of “going blind” they may be motivated to quit the habit of smoking, if they know that vision loss is associated with it. This further emphasizes the need for increasing awareness among the public about the effect of smoking on eye heath.

Make sure your eyes are tested:

RNIB recommends annual full eye test for children under the age of 16 and adults over 60. For other individuals, sight test is recommended every two years.

Follow a varied and healthy diet for eye health:

Research suggests that nutrition plays an important role in development of AMD. Adopt a balanced and healthy diet that is rich in fresh fruits and green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli. According to RNIB, healthy diet may help protect against cataracts and AMD

Other foods that may have eye health benefits include oranges, kiwis, dried apricots, tomatoes, yellow peppers, corn, nuts, and oily fish (a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids), which may also help slow down other eye conditions.

It is recommended to eat fish two to three times a week. Eating a handful of nuts every week is also recommended. It is also important to limit your intake of fats.

Although the accepted opinion is that with a good balanced diet there should be no need for using nutritional supplements, however, recent research shows that many people in the UK do not get enough vitamins and minerals from their diet, and therefore they might consider supplementing their diets with nutritional supplements, for example those containing lutein/zeaxanthin. In some cases your doctor or nutritionist may recommend you take a nutritional/food supplement.

However, it is also experts’ opinion that a supplement is not intended to replace a good, balanced diet and healthy lifestyle.

Maintain healthy weight: Obesity increases risk of developing diabetes, which could lead to diabetic retinopathy and consequently to vision loss. An obese person with Body Mass Index (BMI) of over 35 is up to 80 times more likely to develop diabetic retinopathy than someone with BMI of less than 22.

Obesity may also increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration and also speed up disease progression to more advanced forms macular degeneration.

Additionally, overweight people have double the risk of developing cataract, another age-related eye problem.

Protect your eyes from sunlight or long exposure to computer screen:

Ultraviolet rays in sun can cause oxidative stress and damage to eye, and therefore, may increase the risk of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and cataract.
Taking certain foods or supplementation with natural carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin increases the macular concentration of these important macular pigments, which may act inside eye to protect retina from damage caused by sunlight. In other words, lutein and zeaxanthin may act like natural sunscreens to protect macula of the eye from photo-oxidative damage.

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, broccoli and sweet corns are rich sources of these natural carotenoids.

To protect your eyes from damaging effect of sunlight use good quality sun glasses with UV filter. You may also want to find out if your contact lenses have UV protection. If you are a skier or snowboarder take particular care of your eyes, as snow intensifies the amount of reflected UV light.

Control your weight and exercise regularly:

Research has shown that high level of physical exercise is inversely associated with development of age-related macular degeneration.
One research has shown that those who ran on averaging between 2 to 4 km/day had 19% lower risk of developing AMD compared to those with less than 2 km/day. In the same study those with average 4 km/day had 42% to 54% lower adjusted AMD risk.


* You should conslut your doctor for any lifestyle or diet changes.


Kennedy RD, Spafford MM, Parkinson CM, Fong GT. Knowledge about the relationship between smoking and blindness in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia: results from the International Tobacco Control Four-Country Project. Optometry, 2011; 82:310-7.

DeBlack SS. (2003). Cigarette smoking as a risk factor for cataract and age-related macular degeneration: a review of the literature.Optometry.74:99-110.

Barker FM 2nd. (2010). Dietary supplementation: effects on visual performance and occurrence of AMD and cataracts. Current Medical Research & Opinion Vol. 26:2011–2023.

Mares JA, Voland RP, Sondel SA, Millen AE, Larowe T, Moeller SM, Klein ML, Blodi BA, Chappell RJ, Tinker L, Ritenbaugh C, Gehrs KM, Sarto GE, Johnson E, Snodderly DM, Wallace RB. (2011). Healthy lifestyles related to subsequent prevalence of age-related macular degeneration. Arch Ophthalmol. 129:470-80.

Williams PT. (2009). Prospective Study of Incident Age-Related Macular Degeneration in Relation to Vigorous Physical Activity during a 7-Year Follow-up. IOVS. 50: 101-106.

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