Help Your Kids Prevent Macular Degeneration

Help Your Kids Prevent Macular Degeneration

Macular degeneration afflicts upwards of eleven million people per year in the United States alone. Unless a cure is found, this number is expected to double by 2050. Although there are genetic factors that correlate with this disease, it is an accumulative path which means that it takes many years to develop. This is why people over the age of fifty begin the second half of their lives facing a multitude of health risks that include age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

The more AMD is studied the more it is found that aside from a possible genetic cause, lifestyle choices definitely come into play. These lifestyle choices revolve around expected daily activities  such as what kind of food is consumed and how much exercise is integrated. In addition, recreational and addictive choices such as alcohol, tobacco, and drugs are also a big factor in adding to a possible AMD diagnosis down the line. 

So if diet, exercise, and vices are a known factor in how they affect eyesight, changing your own choices is an excellent way to help increase ocular strength. However, what about your children, extended family children, or grandchildren? Most people would rather children not to be concerned with grown-up future diseases such as AMD. It is often the attitude that they are young, healthy, and not at risk until old age sets in. Yet, with AMD being an accumulative disease and how diet, exercise, and vice education seem to be able to improve ocular health, wouldn’t it be a good choice to start preventative measures when they are young?

Help your kids prevent macular degeneration by instilling good dietary, exercise and other lifestyle choices that they can maintain throughout their lives for optimal health and possibly sidestepping ocular disease altogether.

Start Early

You can begin protecting your child’s eyesight by strengthening it while the child is still in the womb. If you are pregnant, choosing retina boosting foods that contain essential nutrients such as  lutein, vitamin A, Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), zeaxanthin, and a multitude of additional antioxidants your child can end up craving those foods in the future. 

A study, published in Nutrition Reviews by researchers from Tufts University, Boston, Massachusetts, stated that importance of carotenoids like lutein, the compound in fruits and vegetables that gives them color:

“In pediatric brains, the relative contribution of lutein to the total carotenoids is twice that found in adults, accounting for more than half the concentration of total carotenoids. The greater proportion of lutein in the pediatric brain suggests a need for lutein during neural development as well.”

Color Their Plate

Increasing carotenoids into your child’s diet could be a challenge but the benefits just may go a long way. This would include the above mentioned lutein as well other potent carotenoids such as zeaxanthin, lycopene, and carotene (alpha and beta). 

A study titled, ‘Genetic Evidence for Role of Carotenoids in Age-Related Macular Degeneration in the Carotenoids in Age-Related Eye Disease Study (CAREDS)’ published in Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, showed how consuming these plant-based compounds could change a gene expression that may have otherwise developed into AMD. In addition, it cites how carotenoids can directly strengthen and protect the retina against the disease. The study stated that,

“The results demonstrated associations between genetic determinants of serum or macular carotenoids and AMD, which are independent of dietary lutein and zeaxanthin. Thus, they provided independent evidence to strengthen the existing body of evidence suggesting a role of carotenoids in the prevention of AMD, and provide direction for future work to better understand the direct and indirect effects these carotenoid-related genes have on AMD.” 

Best foods high in carotenoids include:

  • Yams
  • Kale
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Bell Peppers
  • Tomatoes
  • Carrots
  • Mangoes
  • Oranges

Increase Vitamin A

Another major player to help your kids prevent macular degeneration is vitamin A. Also known as retinol, vitamin A has been linked to protecting the optic nerve as well as functioning as an antioxidant within the ocular sac, including the retina where macular degeneration develops. The best source of vitamin A to help your kids prevent macular degeneration is the conversion of beta (β)-carotene from vitamin A. 

Published in Clinical Interventions of Aging, a study of nutrients for the aging eye by researchers from Tufts University stated that,

“β-carotene is the primary dietary source of provitamin A.The best evidence that β-carotene may play a role in age-related eye disease comes from the AREDS1[age-related eye disease study] trial, in which supplementation with β-carotene along with vitamins C and E, zinc, and copper reduced the risk of developing advanced AMD,”

Best food sources of vitamin A include:

  • Okra 
  • Purple cabbage
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Dried apricots (try for non-preservative, unsulphured apricots)

Keep Them In Play

Eye-hand coordination development is essential for developing a strong retina which could help avoiding AMD in the distant future. Recommended toys by WebMD for early macula development are:

  • Building or linking blocks
  • Puzzles
  • Stringing beads
  • Pegboards
  • Drawing tools like pencils, chalk, crayons, and markers
  • Finger paints
  • Modeling clay

Also, the Institute for Control of Eye Myopia in Children offers this list of early eye strengthening development applications:  

0 to 5 Months – Crib mobiles, bright large rattles and rubber squeak toys are suggested for children this age. Recommended activities include peek-a-boo and patty-cake.

6 to 8 Months – Toys that can help stimulate vision development in children ages six to eight months include stuffed animals and floating bath toys. It would also help to play hide-and-seek with toys and read to your child.

9 to 12 Months – Children this age can play with cardboard books, snap-lock beads, nesting toys and take-apart toys. Reading books to them can aid in vision development.

One-Year-Olds – Toys like bright balls, rocking horses and blocks are great for developing visual skills as well as activities like throwing a ball.

Two-Year-Olds – It’s time to let your kid draw using crayons and pencils. Toss games, hammering toys, puzzles, blocks and outdoor play would also be great.

3 to 6 Years – At this age, climbing, running and using playground equipment should further develop your child’s visual skill. Recommended toys include stringing beads, puzzles, crayons, modeling clay and large balls.

Help your kids prevent macular degeneration by applying these dietary and lifestyle tips. In addition, make sure they get a yearly eye checkup to confirm that healthy sight is right on track