Educate patients on links between smoking, diet, and eye health

February 9, 2011

Your patients may not realize that the risk for blinding eye diseases such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD) can be lessened by taking basic steps to ensure overall health. Here is some information to share with them.

Chicago-Your patients may not realize that the risk for blinding eye diseases, such as age-related macular degeneration (AMD), can be lessened by taking basic steps to ensure overall health.

Some information you can share with them:

Smoking. Smoking cessation is essential to maintain healthy vision. Research shows that AMD is four times more likely to be diagnosed in smokers than in non-smokers. Also, non-smokers living with smokers almost double their risk of developing AMD through second-hand smoke. The World Health Organization names smoking as the only modifiable risk factor for AMD.

Food to eat. Eating a diet filled with green leafy vegetables rich in lutein also can help lessen the risk of AMD. Lutein is a naturally occurring molecule found in vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. It also can be found in corn, egg yolks, and other vegetables and fruits. Eating foods high in zinc, vitamins C and E, and beta carotene also has been shown to help slow the progression of AMD in some patients, according to the National Eye Institute. Frequently eating nuts or fish, such as salmon, tuna, or mackerel, also may help reduce the risk.

Food to avoid. According to the AMD Alliance International, foods and processed baked goods with high-fat content should be avoided. A high-fat, high-cholesterol diet can lead to fatty plaque deposits in the macular vessels, which can hamper blood flow. Research has indicated that those consuming red meat at least 10 times a week or more were at a 47% higher risk for AMD.