(NaturalNews) According to the Macular Degeneration Foundation, macular degeneration is the number one cause of blindness among persons aged over 65 in the United States and the United Kingdom. Some good news, though, was revealed in a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. It had found that intake of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid could help prevent the onset of the disease.
About the Macula and Macular Degeneration
The retina is the surface at the back of the eyeball which is opposite the lens, while the macula is the central part of this surface, situated directly opposite the lens. The macula contains cones, or cells, which give us the ability to see things in fine detail and color. There are three types of cones, and every type is most sensitive to each of the primary colors: red, green or blue.
Macular degeneration is a condition whereby the cells of the macula which sense light stop functioning properly or even stop working altogether over time. Sharp, central vision is then gradually lost; such vision is needed to view things clearly and to undertake day-to-day activities such as reading and driving.
This ailment tends to hit persons aged above 60, although hereditary forms of the disease also affect children and teenagers; the former is referred to as Age Related Macular Degeneration (ARMD), while the latter is called Juvenile Macular Degeneration. The condition does not cause pain, and progression of symptoms can be so gradual that the change is hardly noticeable.
Among Americans aged 55 to 64, the incidence rate of macular degeneration is 1 in 6; among those aged 65 to 74, it's 1 in 4; among those over 75, it's 1 in 3. It is estimated that as many as 12 million Americans could suffer from macular degeneration, and about 10% of these people will suffer severe central vision loss each year. Every year, about 200,000 of this group will suffer total loss of central vision in at least one eye.
Details and Findings of Study
For the said study, which was funded by the National Eye Institute, researchers had used data from a cardiovascular disease study which involved over 5,200 women aged above 40 years; those women had reported that they did not suffer from macular degeneration at the commencement of that study.
By random assignment, the women consumed a daily combination of vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid supplements or a placebo; the dosages used were more than the recommended daily amounts. Annually for a period of 7 years, the women filled in surveys regarding their consumption of these supplements and their health status.
It was found that the women who took the supplements had a 41% lower likelihood of getting macular degeneration, as compared to those in the placebo group. These findings are groundbreaking. "This is the first randomized trial to indicate a possible benefit of folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamin supplements in reducing the risks of age-related macular degeneration," said William Christen, an associate professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, the leader of the study.
High levels of homocysteine, an amino acid, have been linked to heightened risk of ARMD, and that could provide a clue to why these supplements helped to ward off the disease. "It's fairly well-established that folic acid, B6 and B12 can reduce blood levels of homocysteine, so there's a reason to suspect a possible benefit," said Christen. The researchers believe that, even though the study was only conducted on women, its findings could probably be extrapolated to all older Americans.
How to Prevent Macular Degeneration - Simple Tips and Suggestions
With macular degeneration affecting such a large proportion of the older population, you may want to take some precautionary steps to prevent this disease. These measures would also be useful for those who are already affected by the condition.
Diet - Low Fat, Low Cholesterol To function well, the macula requires a constant and rich supply of ions, oxygen and nutrients. A diet which is high in saturated fats and cholesterol could result in plaque formation in the macula's blood vessels, restricting its blood supply. This affects the optimal functioning of the macula and, in the long run, leads to its degeneration.
Antioxidants Consume foods high in potent antioxidants like vitamin C (broccoli, red peppers, citrus fruits) and vitamin E (whole grains, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds). Antioxidants help to protect against fatty deposits attaching themselves to the walls of blood vessels.
Dark Green, Leafy Vegetables Consume at least two servings each day. Examples of these vegetables include collard greens, kale and spinach. Besides a host of beneficial nutrients, such vegetables are rich in lutein, an antioxidant in the carotenoid family. Lutein is the main carotenoid found in the macula, and it may help protect the macula against potentially damaging types of light.
Avoid Cigarette Smoke This applies to both smoking and exposure to second-hand smoke. Cigarette smoke, like fats and cholesterol, also affects the blood and oxygen supply to the macula, thus again contributing to its malfunction and deterioration.
Exercise A recent study conducted by the United States Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that running helped to protect against the onset of ARMD. You may read more about that study at http://www.naturalnews.com/025755.html.
Do the above suggested lifestyle and dietary habits sound familiar? Indeed, they are a subset of any health-promoting lifestyle and dietary protocol. This tells us that, by taking good care of our bodies overall, there is a great likelihood that healthy eyes will also follow, barring the presence of any specific risk factors for eye disease.