The Importance of Macular Health
A growing number of baby boomers understand the potential effects of aging on their eyesight and are therefore motivated to take action to maintain their independence. Studies show that today’s “older” Americans are far more active for much longer than previous generations. They stay in the workforce longer and have more hobbies and interests. Some studies among this group report that loss of independence is actually feared more than death. So, when older patients are able to drive safely and more confidently, handle bright light easier, read with less strain, and manage risk factors for AMD, the case for a center for macular health becomes much clearer.
NUTRITION AND SUPPLEMENTATION
Considering that the #1 vegetable in the US is the french fry, it is unlikely that most patients are going to turn over a new leaf to become prolific vegetable eaters. What’s more, the stats tell the hard truth: as a society, our diets and health status are becoming less healthy every day. Obesity and diabetes are rampant, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicate that nearly 33% of US adults are obese, 25 million have diabetes, and another 86 million have undiagnosed pre-diabetes.
WHAT YOUR EYES NEED MOST
There is a deep and ever growing body of scientific evidence supporting the relationship between proper nutrition and macular health (more than 300 published clinical studies/papers). Later in this document we provide highlights of several studies that demonstrate the very important role nutrition (including supplementation) plays in supporting the macula and helping patients see better and manage their AMD risk. Unfortunately, most people don’t consume enough of the right nutrients in their diet to build and maintain a healthy, dense macular pigment comprised of Zeaxanthin and Lutein.
MACULAR PIGMENT AND MACULAR HEALTH
Macular pigment is composed of two carotenoids: Zeaxanthin and Lutein, which are photo-protectants and antioxidants. An apple provides a great example of how antioxidants provide protection. The skin of the apple protects the inside until it is sliced open and exposed to oxygen. When this occurs, the inside turns brown via a process known as oxidation. A similar process occurs in our eyes over time as we age.
Macular pigments and the protection they provide in the eye have often been compared to “internal sunglasses.” The macular pigments play an important role in protecting the rods and cones from damaging light, and they are also essential to healthy vision. Thick, dense internal sunglasses block the harmful blue light part of the light spectrum that damages one’s eye across their lifetime.
HEALTHY FOVEA AND BIOLOGICAL POSITIONING
The cone-rich fovea resides in the center of the macula, and a healthy fovea contains a natural 2:1 ratio of Zeaxanthin to Lutein. Zeaxanthin is biologically positioned in the center of the macula to protect the cones, while Lutein is positioned more in the para-foveal region to protect the rods. Zeaxanthin and Lutein are found at a 1:1 ratio in the macula as a whole, and their unique biological positioning signals the importance of both macular pigments in properly protecting one’s eyes.
MACULAR PIGMENT: THE EYES’ INTERNAL SUNGLASSES
While Zeaxanthin and Lutein are the two dietary carotenoids in the macula, a third non-dietary carotenoid, meso-zeaxanthin, is sometimes present (through conversion of Lutein) when one does not consume adequate quantities of fruits and vegetables or supplements that contain dietary Zeaxanthin. The body cannot synthesize or create dietary Zeaxanthin or Lutein, so they must be obtained through the diet.
Lutein is found in many dark green leafy vegetables like spinach, collards, or kale and is relatively easy to obtain through the diet. Zeaxanthin is far more scarce in the average daily diet, requiring one to consume an extraordinary amount of corn, red /orange peppers, goji berries, or other brightly colored fruits and vegetables to obtain the amount necessary to establish or maintain healthy macular pigment density. Based upon the difficulty to consume an adequate quantity of dietary Zeaxanthin via food sources, it is understandable and logical that many prefer to take supplements with a higher quantity of dietary Zeaxanthin vs. Lutein.
MACULAR PIGMENT MEASUREMENT
MPOD or Macular Pigment Optical Density measurement is non-invasive, fast, and easy. Currently, the only commercially available technology to conduct macular pigment measurement is Heterochromatic Flicker Photometry (HFP). HFP is a subjective exam, and is accomplished when two lights of different color are alternated at various wavelengths, and their relative intensities are observed by the patient until the flicker sensation is minimized or increased, depending upon the instrument. MPOD measurement is similar to a visual field test.
Eye Clinic of Austin invested in the HFP system to enable our doctors to accurately measure the health of our patient’s macular pigment. Schedule your exam now to find out the health of your macular pigment and other aspects of your vision.