Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness in industrialized countries. Over 10 million Americans have the disease, which affects mainly people over the age of 60. AMD attacks the central portion of the retina, leaving the victim with a frustrating type of blindness where the center of one’s vision is blocked. That loss of vision makes it very difficult, if not impossible, to read, drive or recognize faces. There is no known cure for the disease, though some treatments are being developed that delay its progress. AMD has been associated with smoking and advancing age, and it affects Caucasians more than other races.
Researchers at the University of Sydney in Australia found that smoking may be the major risk factor for this insidious and progressive disease. After following 2,454 people for 10 years, researchers found that, compared to people who do not smoke, current smokers were four times more likely to develop age-related macular degeneration, and former smokers were 3 times as likely to develop an advanced form of AMD called “geographic atrophy.”
Researchers also noted that smoking combined with low levels of HDL (good cholesterol), a high ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, or low fish consumption created a higher risk than any one risk factor alone.
Bottom Line: If you are a smoker, this latest research provides even more reason to finally quit. You will be protecting your vision, and a whole lot more! You may also want to make sure you are getting adequate doses of zeaxanthin, lutein and lycopene which have all been found to help support optimal vision. It would also be wise to consume several servings of fish per week or take a supplemental dose of fish oil.