When thinking about nutrition for our bodies, most people think about their weight, heart health, and blood sugar…but when is the last time you thought about your eyes? Between the ages of 65 and 85 years old, the rate of vision decline nearly triples for Americans. Our vision is extremely important and as we age it is the cornerstone of maintaining independence and taking care of our daily needs.
Macular degeneration is a leading cause of vision loss in Americans 60 years of age and older. Advanced age-related macular degeneration is a leading cause of irreversible blindness and visual impairment in the world. As many as 11 million people in the United States have some form of age-related macular degeneration and this number is expected to double to nearly 22 million by 2050. The number of people living with macular degeneration is expected to reach 196 million worldwide by 2020 and increase to 288 million by 2040.
Lifestyle is directly linked to age-related macular degeneration. Not smoking, being physically active, and eating a healthy diet can help keep your eyes healthy for many years to come. Research suggests that Americans are not eating enough of the nutrients that protect eye health.
The super nutrients needed for eye health are the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin (Try saying that aloud 10 times fast!). Both of these antioxidants are founds in high amounts in the retina of the eye. Several studies have shown that high intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, either through the diet or with dietary supplements, can prevent or improve both age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
Lutein and zeaxanthin help absorb harmful blue light, as well as serving as a powerful anti-inflammatory. Blue light can be particularly harmful to the eye and our current lifestyle exposes our eyes to high amounts of blue light. The largest source of blue light is from the sunlight, but we also get exposed to it from fluorescent lights, LED lights, flat screen LED televisions, computer monitors, smart phones, and tablet screens.
The American Optometric Association recommends consuming 10 milligrams of lutein and 2 milligrams of zeaxanthin daily to protect your eyes from vision loss. Our bodies do not make these powerful antioxidants on its own, so it is imperative to be getting adequate amounts from the food you eat. To boost your intake of these super nutrients, focus on a diet with high amounts of fruits and vegetables. Lutein and zeaxanthin are particularly high in green, leafy vegetables. Below is a chart of foods that are high in these important nutrients.
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