Age-related macular degeneration, or AMD, is the leading cause of vision loss in people over 50 in the United States.

Certain lifestyle changes are known to play a role in the disease.

“We encourage a lot of our patients in clinic to really stop smoking if they’re currently smoking and are in the early stages of having AMD because we know that smoking cessation can actually have a very positive benefit,” says Rishi Singh, MD, an ophthalmologist at Cleveland Clinic.

Recent research published in the journal Ophthalmology shows people with genes that make them more likely to develop AMD increase their risk of blinding eye disorder if they have a history of heavy smoking, do not exercise, or do not eat enough fruits and vegetables.

Unhealthy lifestyle choices cause a lot of oxidative stress and damage the eye prematurely.

Good foods for eye health are high in antioxidants and include:

  • Papaya, oranges and grapefruit are top sources of Vitamin C
  • Spinach and kale are packed with two of the best antioxidants for eye health, lutein and zeaxanthin
  • Carrots, sweet potatoes and pumpkins are high in beta carotene which converts to Vitamin A

Exposure to UVA and UVB rays from the sun can also cause oxidative stress and promote AMD, so it’s important to wear sunglasses that reduce ultraviolet exposure.

The bottom line is that even if you’re predisposed genetically to AMD, there are things you can do to lower your risk of developing it.

“The combination of genetic and lifestyle factors create the risk in patients,” says Dr. Singh. “It’s unlikely you might have it if you take the right interventions to reduce your risk.”

Vitamins for eye health

If eating properly won’t do the trick, consider talking to your doctor about taking vitamins to ease AMD symptoms and risk. Research conducted by the Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) has shown that people with AMD might benefit from taking specific vitamins including Vitamins C & E, zinc, copper, lutein, and zeaxanthin.

The group’s second study, AREDS 2, determined that taking certain vitamins in high concentrations slows the progression of this condition in a large percentage of people.

However, the study notes that taking these vitamins can only slow the disease. Unfortunately, no vitamins can prevent it from forming in the first place.