When most people think of things that are good for eyesight, they immediately think of carrots. However, new evidence suggests there is much more involved in keeping your eyes healthy. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the most common cause of blindness in those older than fifty in developed countries. Now it is striking at a much younger age leading researchers to believe that early prevention is the real key to eye health. So beginning now is the right time to prevent disease and improve your eye health.

Your Immune System Works For Or Against You

It appears that early in AMD, an activation of the immune system sets the stage for a self-destructive process that eventually kills the photoreceptor (light-sensitive) cells of your eye. AMD presents with increased numbers of retinal macrophages causing high levels of retinal inflammation and high levels of amyloid beta accumulation in the eye. Macrophages are immune cells that cause inflammatory damage to the eye. Amyloid beta accumulation is the hallmark of aging and is not only associated with blindness but it's also the protein that tends to accumulate in the brains of Alzheimer's patients, causing plaque buildup.

Eye Health Begins At The Source

Eye health is more about a comprehensive strategy than simply honing in on a specific nutrient. Ultimately, a balanced and well-supported immune system will protect your eyes on multiple levels. Immune support includes:

  • Vitamin D. New research from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London revealed striking eye benefits from vitamin D3 supplementation in older mice after receiving the supplement for just six weeks. The findings suggest vitamin D3 may very well help prevent age-related macular degeneration (AMD). AMD is associated with both amyloid beta accumulation and inflammation, and vitamin D supplementation appears to benefit both of these conditions. Getting Vitamin D from sun exposure is the best way to optimize your levels. By exposing a large amount of your skin until it turns the lightest shade of pink, as near to solar noon as possible, is the best way to achieve adequate vitamin D production. If sun exposure is not an option, a safe tanning bed (with electronic ballasts rather than magnetic ballasts, to avoid unnecessary exposure to EMF fields) can be used, or a vitamin D3 supplement can be taken orally
  • Care for your cardiovascular system. High blood pressure can cause damage to the miniscule blood vessels on your retina, obstructing free blood flow. One of the primary ways to maintain optimal blood pressure is to avoid fructose. Research by Dr. Richard Johnson, chief of the division of kidney disease and hypertension at the University of Colorado, shows that consuming 74 grams or more per day of fructose (equal to 2.5 sugary drinks) increases your risk of having high blood pressure by 77 percent. Excessive sugar in your blood can also pull fluid from the lens of your eye, affecting your ability to focus. And, it can damage the blood vessels in your retina, also obstructing blood flow. To keep your blood sugar in a healthy range eat a low glycemic diet, exercise and avoid excess sugar
  • Eat plenty of fresh dark green leafy vegetables, especially kale. Studies have shown that a diet rich in dark leafy greens helps support eye health, and those with the highest consumption of carotenoid-rich vegetables, especially ones rich in lutein and zeaxanthin, had increased vision health. Certain antioxidants and nutrients stand out above the rest. Among those that have been shown to be of particular benefit to your eyes of all the carotenoids, only zeaxanthin and lutein are found in your retina, which has the highest concentration of fatty acids of any tissue in your body. This is because your retina is a highly light and oxygen rich environment, and it needs a large supply of free radical scavengers to prevent oxidative damage there
  • Drink black current and bilberry juice. The most noted water-soluble antioxidants for the eye are the anthocyanins found in black currant and bilberry. They are important for eye health because they are soluble in the aqueous humor, the thick watery substance filling the space between the lens and the cornea. The aqueous humor maintains the intraocular pressure, provides nutrition for other ocular tissues and serves to transport antioxidants
  • Get plenty of healthy animal-based omega-3 fat. Omega-3 fatty acids like those in krill oil are protective of your healthy vision. One type, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), is concentrated in your eye's retina and has been found to be particularly useful in preventing AMD. Further, inflammation is likely involved in AMD progression, and omega-3 fats have anti-inflammatory effects. Research has shown that those who had the highest intake of animal-based omega-3 fats had a 60 percent lower risk of advanced AMD compared to those who consumed the least. A 2009 study also found that those with the highest consumption of omega-3 fats were 30 percent less likely to progress to the advanced form of the disease over a 12-year period. Adding further support for omega-3 fats, another 2009 study showed that participants with diets high in omega-3 fats, along with vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein and zeaxanthin, had a lower risk of AMD as well
  • Avoid trans fats. A diet high in trans fat appears to contribute to macular degeneration by interfering with omega-3 fats in your body. Trans fat is found in many processed foods and baked goods, including margarine, shortening, fried foods like French fries, fried chicken and doughnuts, cookies, pastries and crackers
  • Avoid aspartame. Vision problems are one of the many potentially acute symptoms of aspartame poisoning
  • Quit smoking. Smoking increases free radical production throughout your body and puts you at risk for less-than-optimal health in many ways, including the risk of decreased vision
  • Finally, as with all aspects of health, your lifestyle will play a role in how well your eyes hold up as you age. For instance, obesity and diabetes are at epidemic proportions right now, and both can impact your eyesight. Similarly, if you spend a lot of time in front of the computer this too can take a toll on your vision health. Basic healthy lifestyle principles like eating right, limiting environmental toxins and exercising are all important for eye health