Mitigating the impact of AMD: a guide to its modifiable risk factors

AMD - modifiable risk factorsAge-related macular degeneration (AMD) is affecting more people than ever. In fact it is now the leading cause of blindness, but some needn’t fall victim to the disease if they manage certain risk factors.

Risk factors for AMD are split into two categories – factors patients can control (modifiable) and those that are out of their control (non-modifiable). The latter includes ageing, race, genetics or family history. This blog will look into the modifiable risk factors and what can be done to mitigate the risk of developing the condition.

Modifiable risk factors for AMD

This is one of the biggest controllable risk factors for AMD. Those who smoke are three times more likely to develop all forms of AMD than non-smokers. It’s estimated that smokers could develop AMD 10 years earlier due to damage caused by oxidative stress. View our dedicated infographic to learn more about how quitting smoking can protect the eyes.

Obesity and poor nutrition
Eye health charity Bright Focus reported that a person with a BMI of 30 or more is 2.5 times more likely to develop AMD. Higher body weight is linked to greater levels of inflammation, which increases the risk of AMD developing due to oxidative stress. Those who are obese or overweight are also more likely to develop high blood pressure, which can constrict blood vessels in the retina and cause the macular to deteriorate.

Advising patients to follow a varied diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables and omega-3 (from fish or nuts) can contribute to a healthier lifestyle and a lower risk of AMD. Dark, leafy vegetables are particularly important as they contain lutein and zeaxanthin, which protect the macular.

Lack of exercise
In the AREDS2 study 4,000 people from the ages of 43 to 86 were examined for 15 years to assess how they developed age-related eye diseases. Those who maintained a healthy weight and had an active lifestyle were found to be 70% less likely to develop AMD. An ‘active lifestyle’ was defined as the equivalent of walking at least 2 miles per day, three times a week. This isn’t a tough exercise regimen, and can be easily slotted into a daily routine.

Exposure to sunlight and blue light
UV and blue light can harm the eyes if we are exposed to them over long periods of time, either from the sun or from artificial lighting.

Blue light is of a particular concern because it penetrates deep into the eye, which can increase the risk of developing conditions like AMD. We are exposed to blue light more and more in our modern lives, from smartphones, computers and fluorescent lighting. Moderating our use of screens and artificial light can help protect our eyes, and stave off AMD in the future. For more information read our infographic on why artificial blue light is bad for eye health.

Alongside blue light some studies that suggest long term exposure to the sun can increase AMD risk in later life. One study by the University of Cologne reported that there was a ‘dose-related’ increase in risk (sunlight being measured as a dose) of AMD in retirees.

Low macular pigment (MP)
This is the main risk factor for developing AMD, and increasing MP can help to slow the development of the condition. Low MP can be managed by addressing modifiable risk factors, but also via supplementation and other treatments.

Regular screening is essential to detect low MP early. Subsequent lutein and zeaxanthin supplementation has been shown  to successfully raise the level of macular pigment, and help to mitigate the impact of AMD. Early screening is of particular importance to the over 50s, as the risk of developing the condition increases during the later stages of life- after all it is still considered an ‘age-related’ condition.

Management risk factors and regular screening

A combination of regular screening and education about the modifiable risk factors for AMD can help a patient manage their eye health and preserve their vision into old age. AMD is the leading cause of preventable blindness, but many needn’t go blind with the right information.

Our MPS II provides quick and accurate screening for low MP, enabling early detection of the leading cause of blindness in the over 50s. Read more about macular pigment screening or download the MPS II brochure.

Want to know more about AMD? Download our free whitepaper.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *