Published April 12, 2012
More women than men are diagnosed each year with eye diseases, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a progressive eye disease that is the leading cause of irreversible vision loss in the elderly. According to the National Eye Institute, women are more predisposed to eye diseases due to hormonal factors and because women generally live longer.
We may think that declining eye health and vision are inevitable with age, but that’s not necessarily so. Women (and men) can take steps to help delay or even prevent eye diseases, including AMD. One important way is to eat a diet rich in foods that contain nutrients our eyes need for optimum health.
Fill your plate with colorful fruits and vegetables
The National Eye Institute’s age-related eye disease study found that foods rich in beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, and zinc, are important for good eye health. So are foods containing the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which promote healthy eye tissue and slow the progression of macular degeneration by raising pigment density in the macula. Our body doesn’t produce lutein naturally so we need to get it from food sources, primarily dark green leafy vegetables, but we should also get it from fruits and vegetables in various colors, such as broccoli, orange peppers, corn, peas and tangerines.
Eat omega-3 rich fish
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish have also been shown to help protect against age-related macular degeneration. Using data from the Harvard Women’s Health Study, which tracked nearly 40,000 women for more than a decade, researchers found that women who ate the greatest amounts of DHA, an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish, lowered their risk of developing AMD by thirty-eight percent. The study also found that women who ate one or more servings of fish per week compared to women who ate fatty fish once a month, decreased their risk of AMD by 42 percent. Great fish sources of DHA, omega-3 fatty acid are salmon, trout, mackerel and sardines.
For more information about AMD and ways to protect your eyes and maintain healthy vision, check out the Healthy Vision page on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.
Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD, is a nationally known registered dietitian based in New York and the creator of a proprietary high-fiber nutrition program for weight loss, wellness and for treating various medical conditions. Tanya authored the bestselling weight loss book The F-Factor Diet, and she is the first dietitian with a national line of high-fiber foods, which are sold under the F-Factor name. Become a fan of Tanya on Facebook, follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn, and visit her website Ffactor.com.