Irish Research Identifies New Risk Factor for AMD

One of the leading risk factors for developing macular degeneration is obesity and lack of exercise. You can prevent the onset of macular degeneration by leading a healthy lifestyle which includes maintaining a healthy weight, exercising and eating green leafy vegetables.- MDA 
A new Irish study has found a strong correlation between changes in body composition and macular pigment levels found in the back of the eye.While age remains the main risk factor for Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD), which affects one in ten people over the age of 50, the findings may have important implications for the growing proportion of people worldwide that are overweight. This is because weight increase may reduce macular pigment levels and therefore increase the risk of developing the eye condition.  
Speaking in advance of  the recent AMD Week 2010, Mr. Mark Cahill, Irish College of Ophthalmologists, said, “While age is the main risk factor related to the onset of AMD, we now know that lifestyle changes such as ensuring a balanced diet and blood pressure control can help prevent AMD progression. Overall, early detection is key. There are now treatment options available for AMD and these have dramatically improved over the past few years but it is important that AMD is diagnosed early to ensure maximum effectiveness.”
The new study, directed by Professor Stephen Beatty and Dr. John Nolan at the Waterford Institute of Technology and supported by the Irish charity Fighting Blindness, was designed to investigate which factors determine or influence a person’s macular pigment level.  Macular pigment, which is a dietary pigment obtained from eating fruits and vegetables, is believed to protect against AMD as it filters blue light which causes damage to the macula and neutralises unstable molecules which are believed to contribute to AMD.  The findings have confirmed that high levels of body fat reduce this protective eye pigment and that weight loss can significantly increase it, suggesting that weight loss may lead to additional protection against AMD.
“This is a very interesting piece of research as it shows once again that diet and a healthy, active lifestyle are not only important for our general well being but can protect us from sight loss,” said Avril Daly of Fighting Blindness. “We have known for many years that, after age and family history, smoking is the main cause of AMD but this important new research suggests that when you are overweight, the essential vitamins and minerals that are required for healthy vision do not reach the eye as needed.”
This year, RTÉ’s Mary Kennedy is working with the AMD Awareness partners to help encourage Irish people to look after their eye health. Speaking at the campaign launch, she said, “These days, getting older doesn’t necessarily mean a less active lifestyle. It is so easy to take good eye sight for granted and yet maintaining it is integral to enjoying our busy daily lives. ”  
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Source: Senior Times