The second most common cause of vision loss in people over 65 is macular degeneration. In this condition, the
retina is injured. This condition affects close to two million people in the U.S., a number expected to rise as the population ages.
Macular degeneration happens when the macula has deteriorated to the point where your central vision is
blurred, or there appears a very noticeable blind spot always present in your vision when looking straight ahead. In this way macular degeneration always impairs your central vision, not your peripheral vision.
The frightening thing about the condition is that it has the ability to progress quickly. So what can you do? One of the best preventative measures is to make sure your diet contains carotenes. Carotenes have been recognized for their ability to prevent the onset of macular degeneration.
Carotenes can be found in yellow, orange, or dark green fruits and vegetables. And yes, that means carrots. When you eat carrots, you really do help your eyes. The best-known carotene is beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A by your body — an important vitamin in eye health.
But there are two relatively unknown carotenes that are more likely to stave off the onset of macular degeneration. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are found in high amounts in dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, collard greens, and kale.
These carotenes could help protect the macula from sun exposure, almost acting like a pair of natural sunglasses by dyeing the macula yellow. At Harvard, researchers discovered that those who ate the most lutein and zeaxanthin experienced as much as a 75% reduced risk of developing the condition compared to those eating the least amount of the carotenes!
The researchers noted that lutein and zeaxanthin protect the macula in two ways. First of all, they absorb harmful blue light from the sun’s rays. And secondly, they act as powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals.
So stock up on lutein and zeaxanthin in the form of dark, leafy green vegetables. You’ll be doing your eyes a favor, and the rest of you as well.