The AMD Lifestyle: Good Nutrition
I’m frequently asked, “What can I do to slow down the progression of AMD?” That’s an easy answer: live the AMD Lifestyle!
OK, there’s not an easy answer, but there IS what I call an AMD Lifestyle. An easy answer would be, “Take these pills and don’t worry.” After all, we have medications for everything from cancer to rashes. We have medications for medication side effects! But unfortunately, we don’t have medications that treat or cure AMD…yet.
What’s a lifestyle?
I looked up the word lifestyle and found a definition: “the habits, attitudes, tastes, moral standards, economic level, etc., that together constitute the mode of living of an individual or group.”1 The first two words are the ones I’ll focus on: habits and attitudes. Let’s talk about what habits are building blocks of the AMD Lifestyle:
- Building Block 1: Good nutrition
- Building Block 2: Moderate exercise
- Building Block 3: Stress reduction
- Building Block 4: Attitude
Building Block 1 - Good nutrition
Since we know that several of the AMD risk factors have to do with overall good health, that’s the place to start. Many people are told by their eye specialist to “eat leafy greens.” What does that mean exactly? Do you know what eye-healthy foods are?
Does diet prevent blindness or slow progression?
We’ve learned more about this thanks to a recent study that analyzed the results of two big eye research studies. Most of the articles about this research use the words ‘prevent blindness.’ I really hate that a lot of articles about AMD use the word ‘blind’ to grab the reader. We know that people with AMD do not go blind! Anyway, back on track.
Diet and macular degeneration
Of course, people who already have AMD want to know, “Does this apply to me, too?” This is from the AAO (American Academy of Ophthalmology):
"SAN FRANCISCO – September 30, 2018 – Evidence is mounting that a poor diet plays an important role in the development of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness in the United States. A large collaboration of researchers from the European Union investigating the connection between genes and lifestyle on the development of AMD has found that people who adhered to a Mediterranean diet cut their risk of late-stage AMD by 41 percent. This research expands on previous studies and suggests that such a diet is beneficial for everyone, whether you already have the disease or are at risk of developing it."2
AREDS and AREDS2
Wow, did you see that a diet provided a 41% reduced risk of late-stage AMD? That’s better than what’s quoted for the AREDS supplement which is that there was a 25% reduced risk of advanced AMD in that study. Those supplements are meant only for those with intermediate AMD or wet AMD in one eye but not the other. Some people in those stages can’t take the AREDS supplement for various reasons (high doses of Vitamin E and zinc).
What’s the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet is something that is safe for people with and without AMD! I know of no reason anyone should not eat in the Mediterranean style. Side effects: good overall health for the eyes and the heart!
How do I learn about it?
To learn the basics of the Mediterranean style of eating, I recommend this article or ‘Mediterranean Diet 101: A Meal Plan and Beginner's Guideline.’
Mediterranean diet foods
The AAO lists these foods as especially important for good eye health3:
- Vegetables (especially leafy, green ones like spinach)
- Nuts (like almonds, cashews, pistachios and walnuts)
- Whole grains (such as complete grains of wheat, rice, oats, barley, rye, quinoa)
- Fish (such as fresh or water-packed salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel or herring)
- Olive or canola oil instead of butter
Want some great recipes to get you started?
- The Macular Disease Foundation of Australia will send you their free ‘Mediterranean Menu.’
- There are tons of great cookbooks, websites, and Facebook pages out there!
- A recommended site is ‘Visionary Kitchen: Nutrition for Eye Health and Vision.’ They have a website with cooking videos & recipes, a cookbook, and a Facebook page.
Has an eye doctor ever left you feeling confused?