Imagine not being able to see the face of a grandchild, watch television, or be able to tell what time it is. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness for Americans over the age of sixty-five and affects as many as fifteen million people in the United States alone. That number is projected to grow in epidemic proportions to a staggering thirty million by 2010. Individuals over the age of sixty-five have a one-in-four chance of developing the disease, and in those over seventy-five years of age, the chances increase to one-in-three.

The majority of well-meaning eye doctors in practice today were trained to believe that AMD is an untreatable and incurable disease. Subsequently, you, a family member, or a friend has probably been told that nothing can be done for this blinding condition. Well, there is good news. AMD can not only be prevented, but in many cases, it can be safely treated and even reversed.

Getting old and going blind is not the only recourse for people diagnosed with AMD. In this article, we will cover the latest nutritional breakthroughs and treatments in conquering AMD. There is now hope, where previously, there was none.

The Nutrition Connection

For years, eye doctors have been recommending antioxidant vitamins for AMD patients. Up until recently, the AREDS formula was considered to be the standard of care in treating AMD. While the AREDS study fell short in terms of evaluating many of the possible nutrients that can help AMD, it did come out with findings that 25 percent of patients with advanced AMD could slow the progression of their vision loss by taking antioxidants plus zinc.

In 2007, the landmark TOZAL study was published, which evaluated lutein and omega-3 fatty acids in addition to the antioxidants studied in AREDS. Remarkably, the results of the TOZAL study revealed that more than half (57 percent) of the subjects had improved vision at six months. In contrast to the well-known natural course of AMD that demonstrates deterioration, nearly 77 percent of those treated with the TOZAL nutritional supplement improved or stayed the same. This is the first study to show both statistical and clinical significance with respect to vision improvement in patients with dry AMD.

Antioxidants that protect your retina—such as beta-carotene and vitamins A, C, and E—in combination with omega-3 fatty acids may also prevent the development of this serious eye disorder. Two particular carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin, may be particularly beneficial. Antioxidants can be obtained from foods or supplements. Vegetables rich in carotene include orange and yellow squash and dark, leafy greens such as kale, collards, spinach, and watercress.

If you have AMD, the following are some suggested amounts of key nutrients found in the TOZAL formula:

* the carotinoid beta-carotene,1 15,000–25,000 international units (IU) a day
* the carotenoid lutein, 6–10 milligrams (mg) a day
* zinc, 60–70 mg a day
* taurine, 400–500 mg a day
* vitamin A, 5,000–10,000 IU a day
* vitamin C, 400–500 mg a day
* vitamin E, 200 IU a day.

As mentioned previously, omega-3 fatty acids also offer protection against AMD. In a study of more than three thousand people over the age of forty-nine, those who consumed more fish in their diets were less likely to have AMD than those who consumed less fish (most types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids). Similarly, a study comparing 350 people with macular degeneration to 500 without found that those with a proper ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids and higher intake of fish in their diets were less likely to have this particular eye disorder. Another larger study found that consuming docosahexaenoic acid and eicosapentaenoic acid, two types of omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, four or more times per week may reduce the risk of developing macular degeneration.

Flavonoids (such as quercetin, rutin, and resveritrol) may also play a role in preventing AMD. A study of 3,072 adults with macular changes showed that moderate red wine consumption may offer some protection against the development or progression of AMD. Red wine is high in certain flavonoids (including quercetin, rutin, and resveritrol) that have antioxidant activity; damage from oxidative stress is thought to contribute to the development of AMD. Dark berries, such as blueberries, blackberries, and dark cherries, are high in flavonoids as well.

Here is a summary of preventive and therapeutic measures that a person should follow:

1. Take a nutritional supplement based on the TOZAL study.
2. Exercise—walking is an excellent source of exercise and improves circulation.
3. Limit caffeine intake from coffee, tea, and soft drinks.
4. Quit smoking—smoking increases your risk of AMD by 350 percent.
5. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily.
6. Avoid aspirin and ibuprofen.
7. Wear sunglasses or brimmed hats outside.
8. Develop a PMA—positive mental attitude!

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health”, visit http://selfgrowth.com/healthbook3.html

Author's Bio: 

Edward Paul, OD, PhD, is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading authorities on eye disease and nutrition. Dr. Paul has been in private practice for more than twenty years, with offices located in Wilmington, North Carolina. Dr. Paul graduated from the Southern College of Optometry in Memphis, Tennessee, and completed his internship training at Womack Army Hospital at Fort Bragg in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and St. Luke’s Eye Institute in Tarpon Springs, Florida. In addition to his doctorate in optometry, he also holds a PhD in nutrition. He has authored and coauthored four books and serves as a consultant to Rodale, publishers of PREVENTION magazine. Visit his Web site at http://www.DrEdwardPaul.com.