ADVERTISING: Advertorial — DR. WENDY CUNNINGHAM: Preventing macular degeneration

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Macular degeneration is now the leading cause of permanent vision loss in adults, affecting an estimated 10 to 11 million Americans. This number is expected to double to 22 million by 2050. Currently, one in ten of those over age 60 has already (often unknowingly) started the changes of early macular degeneration. Older adults are not the only ones who should be worried. Smokers, those with a poor diets or nutrient deficiencies, and diabetics are also at risk.

Macular degeneration is an eye disorder that affects cells in the part of the eye called the retina, thereby causing changes in vision. In those with macular degeneration, images that usually appear clear and sharp often become blurred at first, and then as the disease progresses, they can become distorted, enlarged, cloudy, dark or spotted. This spotty vision often results in color changes and difficulty reading.

The macula deteriorates in a variety of ways. There are two types of macular degeneration. One type is called dry macular degeneration, which is more common and less severe. The other type is called wet macular degeneration. Wet macular degeneration is generally caused by abnormal blood vessels that leak fluid or blood into the region of the macula, creating scar tissue, while dry macular degeneration is a steady deterioration of the back of the eye.

Research suggests that no matter your age, increasing your intake of vitamins and foods that protect the eyes might significantly decrease your chances for developing macular degeneration. Add eye-protecting foods to your diet such as dark, leafy greens, brightly colored veggies, omega-3 fats and berries. It is also important to keep up with other healthy habits like exercising, wearing sunglasses and most importantly, quitting smoking, to help preserve your eyesight.

Two nutrients in particular have been the subject of multiple controlled studies on macular degeneration. They have found that those with macular degeneration or other eye problems have low levels of lutein and zeaxanthin compared to those with healthy eyes. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids from our foods that are present in the highest concentration in the retina.

In supplement form, 20 mg of Lutein and 3 mg zeaxanthin daily have been found to improve vision. The studies found that the supplements had to be continued to maintain the improvement. Another study showed improvement in 71% of participants who added multiple servings of dark, leafy, green vegetables in addition to the supplemented lutein and zeaxanthin. Spinach is a wonderful source of lutein.

As with everything, prevention is your best course of action. Eat a diet high in antioxidants, fiber and water to support your vision.

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For more information contact Dr. Wendy Cunningham at haydenhealth@gmail.com.

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