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... And Eat More Carrots! Read the Labels When Buying Sunglasses.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of irreversible loss of central vision in Americans age 65 and older. One of the factors linked to this disorder is the effect of ultraviolet light on the retina. When buying sunglasses, therefore, look for labels that state the product absorbs both ultraviolet A (UV-A) and ultraviolet B (UV-B) rays. Not all sunglasses carry this information, however. Darker lenses don't necessarily offer more protection from ultraviolet radiation.

AMD occurs when the most sensitive area of the retina, the macula, begins to deteriorate, causing fuzzy vision. This inability to perceive fine detail makes it difficult to read or to recognize familiar faces. Although the causes of AMD are largely unknown, various studies have implicated such possible factors as smoking and exposure to sunlight. Whatever the causes, about 25 percent of persons over 65 and as many as one third of those over 80 will have some degree of AMD.

Two other potentially preventive measures (besides wearing proper sunglasses) are the consumption of fruits and vegetables containing carotenoids, especially beta carotene, and the moderate use of wine. Carotenoids, the pigments found in orange, yellow, red, and dark green fruits and vegetables, are also thought to be useful in lowering the risk of heart disease and some cancers.

The positive effect of wine was noted in a study that sought to determine whether alcohol raised the risk of AMD. After questioning more than 3,000 adults over the age of 45 about their drinking habits and testing them for AMD, the researchers found, to their surprise, that wine drinkers were 19 percent less likely to develop AMD. However, other forms of alcohol offered little protection--and beer none at all.

Don't rely on supplements to provide carotenoids. There is some evidence, for example, that supplements of beta carotene may, in fact, be harmful. No such risk exists, however, in consuming the recommended five servings daily of fruits and vegetables.
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Publication:Medical Update
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 1, 1998
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