eye health

  1. The real secret to saving your eyes

    At some point in the next month, the feds are expected to approve a new drug to help treat macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in seniors.

    And if the $2,000-a-pop price tag doesn't cause your eyes to pop right out of your head, maybe this will: The drug, called Eylea, is injected directly into the eyeball.

    YOUCH!

    Sure, it's done with some anesthesia -- but there's the potential for serious pain once it wears off, along with the possibility of increased pressure in the eyeball, and hemorrhaging in the white.

    Might be a great look for Halloween... but probably not ideal for the other 364 days of the year.

    The cost and side effects are right in line with the other major treatment for macular degeneration, a drug called Lucentis. The only difference is that Lucentis is injected monthly, while Eylea can be done every other month.

    But what if you didn't have to deal with the needles, side effects, cost or -- more importantly -- the macular degeneration itself?

    It might be a lot easier than you think -- and it starts with eating a little more seafood.

    Dutch researchers examined data on 2,167 volunteers aged 55 or older and found that those with certain gene variations linked to macular degeneration were able to lower their risk by boosting their intake of omega-3 fatty acids and zinc.

    One variation, CFH, can boost the risk of macular degeneration by 11 times -- but the researchers found that some seniors were able to beat those odds by getting higher levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA as well as zinc, beta-carotene, and the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin.

    Another gene variation, called LOC387715S, is known to increase the risk of macular degeneration by 15 times -- but researchers say seniors who had higher levels of zinc, EPA and DHA were more likely to avoid the disease than those who had lower levels.

    The best sources of EPA and DHA, of course, are the fatty fish that should be a steady part of your diet anyway. But zinc's a little tougher to come by: Oysters are loaded with it, but a steady shellfish diet can get pricey.

    Add a supplement instead -- especially if you already know you may be predisposed to macular degeneration.

    P.S. For more on the connection between fish oil and eye health, read "Fish is 'see' food." And for a promising but yet-unproven treatment for macular degeneration, read "Flowers for your eyes."

  2. Eyes on omega-3 fatty acids

    Here's a quick and easy way to dramatically lower your risk of the top age-related sight disorder… go fishin'!

    We've known for years that fish oil plays a key role in eye health, but the latest studies show that omega-3 fatty acids can actually reduce your risk of age-related macular degeneration by around a third.

    That's the single biggest cause of blindness in folks over 55, afflicting around 30 million people around the world. Some estimates say those numbers will triple by 2025, which isn't as far off as it sounds.

    There are two kinds of AMD, but without getting technical on you we can call them "wet" and "dry." That's because one involves leaking blood vessels, while the other doesn't.

    Fortunately, fish oil can reduce your risk of both conditions. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming extra omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of wet AMD by 35 percent, and the dry one by 32 percent.

    This supports an Australian study published last year, which found that omega-3 fatty acids can reduce the risk of AMD by around 38 percent – and that people who ate fish at least twice a week had the lowest risk.

    This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone. One of the main fatty acids in fish oil is docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA. One of the main fatty acids in our retina is… that very same DHA.

    Our brains are also packed with the stuff, which is why it's so important to make sure you get plenty of omega-3 fatty acids every day.

    In addition to eye and brain health (as if that's not enough), these essential oils can also help avoid some cancers, fight off diabetes and slash your risk of heart disease.

    You don't really have to catch your own fresh fish to enjoy the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids. You don't even have to eat fish (but it helps). If you don't like seafood or worry about mercury levels, then the catch of the day for you is an omega-3 supplement.

    Some of them may leave a fishy aftertaste – or the so-called "fish burps" – so experiment until you find one you like.

    After all, there's nothing fishy about great health!

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