This is such an important topic that we are posting information that we presented in earlier posts. This information may help preserve your vision.
Age related macular degeneration affects an estimated 30 million people worldwide at an estimated cause of $300 billion dollars. The cause of this problem has been debated for years without total agreement. Currently our understanding is that a number of factors are involved. First of all there is a genetic predisposition to develop macular degeneration. If someone in your immediate family has macular degeneration, your risk for developing it is about 70%. This is a higher rate of genetic predisposition than many other diseases.
Secondly, oxidative stress is a contributing factor. We have written extensively about oxidative stress in our book Live Longer Live Healthier. The retina is an organ that consumes large amounts of oxygen, a feature that makes it especially vulnerable to damage from free radicals that are produced as a by product of the cellular metabolism. To learn more about how free radicals are generated by your own body read the chapter on this subject in our book.
The third factor that contributes to the development of macular degeneration is environmental. Smoking is definitely a major causative factor. A poor diet is another. As we get older our metabolism tends to slow down and for most people less food is consumed. The aging body also has a reduced ability to absorb micronutrients from the gut contributing to nutrient deficiencies.
This problem is so severe that an estimated 5% to 10% of adults over the age of 65 are clinically malnourished. In another study it was found that 35% of patients in long term facilities were considered to be malnourished despite having access to proper nutrition. Furthermore a comprehensive nutritional survey in 2009 found that in patients over the age of 50, almost 50% did not meet their recommended daily allowance (RDA) for vitamin C and 90% did not meet the RDA for betacarotene, lutein or zeaxanthin.
A large study on nutrition and macular degeneration performed in Rotterdam concluded that a healthy diet rich in green leafy vegetables and fish was sufficient to prevent or delay the onset of macular degeneration. Unfortunately most older adults do not eat enough of the foods necessary to meet these criteria; therefore there is the need to supplement with the necessary micronutrients.