A woman is jogging and a rainbow of food appears behind her in the form of shrimp, carrots, cheese and legumes.

Why a Healthy Diet is Necessary to Help Keep Vision Loss at Bay

It’s no surprise that when we eat well, we feel well, and are just healthier. Maintaining a healthy diet keeps our whole body and all of its systems healthy. This includes our eyes and our mental health as well. Remember that eliminating highly processed foods, foods that are high in sugar, and foods that are high in fat is another important step of the process.

Eating right for our eyes

Our overall health doesn’t just depend on the healthy foods we do eat, but also depends on the unhealthy foods we don’t eat. That doesn’t mean we can’t treat ourselves once in a while. I always say that there is food for our health and there is food for our soul. And, I never miss an opportunity to celebrate holidays and birthdays!

Diet is all about balance

I live by this quote: People don’t become healthy after eating one salad. Likewise, they don’t become unhealthy after eating one cupcake.

Remember, balance is key! Focusing on our overall health assures us that our eyes are at their optimal health as well. Healthy eyes have a better chance of less of the 'D' in AMD. Less degeneration is better and that keeps our vision loss at bay!

Eye-healthy nutrients

Our eyes require very specific nutrients to maintain eye health. In my opinion, lutein and zeaxanthin are the two most important to focus on within our diets. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that are found in high concentrations in the macula region of the retina.

Nutrients found in the AREDS formula

Other important nutrients are found in AREDS formula eye vitamins and include vitamin C, vitamin E, copper, and zinc. Be careful with zinc intake, specifically because it can be harmful to some of our eyes. Specifically, about 15% of patients with AMD harm their eyes by taking too much zinc. There’s a genetic test for this, called the Macula Risk Assessment made by the company ArticDX if you’re interested in finding out if you’re in that 15%.

Disclaimer: Each of us has unique needs when it comes to diet and supplementation. It’s very important to discuss this topic with your doctors to be sure you’re getting the right nutrients. We each respond differently to various nutrients as well.

Eating right leads to more energy

Eating healthier foods means more energy! More energy means the ability to exercise. Exercise is very important to our eyes. In an article I wrote last year titled, Why People With Macular Degeneration Don’t Just Exercise to Get Skinny, I explained the science behind the relationship between exercise and macular degeneration.

Endorphins and digestion

Not only does exercise slow the progression of degenerative eye disease, such as macular degeneration, it is also necessary for specific hormones to be released into our bodies. These special hormones allow the nutrients we take in to be processed fully and properly. Without these exercise hormones and a healthy metabolism due to exercise, many of the nutrients we eat (or get via supplementation with vitamins) goes to waste.

Exercise doesn't have to be done in a gym

We must exercise to fully process our nutrients! I always say that exercise doesn’t have to be done in a gym or by running a marathon. Just get up and move! Do anything that you enjoy that gets your heart rate up for 30 minutes or more a day. It’s important that you enjoy the ways you get that blood flowing! If not, then you’re not as apt to stick to it for very long. Exercise is something that shouldn’t be temporary for someone with macular degeneration, but a part of our new eye-healthy lifestyle!

Getting skinny?

When I was first diagnosed with myopic macular degeneration at the age of 26, I had a really knowledgeable but blunt retina specialist who told me to ‘get as skinny as you can.’ I was young (and skinny - I thought) so I knew there had to be something more behind his suggestion than my looks!

Lower body weight and macular degeneration

In short, my very frank retina specialist was definitely lacking bedside manner, but he did have a point to his ridicule. Basically, having a lower body weight also means there’s less pressure ‘pulling’ on the retina in our eyes. The less ‘pull’ there is, the less chance of a tear, detachment, or hole there is as well.

Have any recipes or exercise ideas?

Have a favorite eye-healthy recipe? What are some of your favorite ways to get in your exercising? I love love love veggie stir fry, shrimp tacos, and going on long walks on our country roads with friends. I also enjoy swimming with the kids...as soon as summer gets here!

Remember, a healthy diet means so much to our eyes!

Andrea Junge

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