NDSU Extension - Mercer County

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Nourish Your Eyes for Optimal Health

Eye care, Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program, AMD, age-related macular degeneration

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences

When was the last time you had a full eye exam?

About 16 million people in the U.S. over the age of 45 report some vision loss, so regular vision checkups are very important. The most debilitating eye diseases are glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, retinal detachment and refractive errors. The greatest risk factor for most eye diseases, especially AMD, is age.

Several of us may be more likely to have AMD later in life because our relatives have or had AMD. However, all of us should consider preventing AMD through a variety of methods; the first is regular eye exams. The dilated-pupil exam allows your eye doctor to have a comprehensive look at the macula.

AMD research found a preventive effect from food, but not particularly from supplements. Participants who ate larger amounts of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains lowered their risk for AMD by 35 percent. This translates into eating more dark leafy greens — such as spinach, kale, and broccoli — and citrus fruits that are naturally high in vitamin C and beta-carotene, the precursor of vitamin A.

Taking an eye supplement such as lutein and zeaxanthin is not a replacement for an inadequate diet. Substances in green, leafy vegetables may be effective in preventing AMD, but scientists are not sure if the reason is lutein, zeaxanthin or an unidentified substance in plant-based food.

Another way to reduce the risk for AMD is to eat more cold-water fish, such as salmon and halibut, and other foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as flaxseed, walnuts, and soybeans. Researchers associated diets high in omega-3 fatty acids with a 38-percent reduction in the risk of developing AMD.

If you’d like to make some changes in your diet or lifestyle to improve your eye health, the North Dakota State University Extension Service can help. The Extension office in Mercer County is holding a class at 3 p.m. on April 13, 2015 at the Beulah Civic Center.

This class is part of NDSU Extension’s Nourishing Boomers and Beyond program. The program is designed to provide rural North Dakotans age 50 and older with information and strategies to reduce their risk of developing chronic diseases. However, any adult can benefit from the information.

Nourishing Boomers and Beyond offers classes on a different topic each month. Participants will be able to take part in hands-on activities and discussions, and they’ll receive material such as handouts and healthful recipes to take home.

If you aren’t able to attend a class or want more information on the topic covered in a session, visit the program’s website (www.ndsu.edu/boomers). Anyone can sign up for the free monthly newsletter by visiting the website or contacting the local Extension office.

The Mercer County Extension office also has a Facebook page to interact with our clients, and we have added a page on Pinterest to our Web materials.

Source: Julie Garden Robinson, NDSU Food and Nutrition Specialist

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