Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness in Australia and New Zealand, affecting one in seven over the age of 50.
Alarmingly, without prevention and treatment studies show this number could rise to 70 per cent by 2030. What’s even more worrying is that recent studies have shown nearly two thirds of people over the age of 15 are unaware of the disease and the risks its poses.
This week’s Macular Degeneration Awareness Week (May 26th – June 1st) is hoping to change these statistics. The campaign is designed to ensure those most at risk learn about the importance of nutrition and lifestyle to the development and progression of this sight-ending disease.
“Age, genes and lifestyle choices, such as diet and smoking, can increase the risk of macular degeneration. While you can’t change your age or your genes, you can make changes to your lifestyle and diet that can help to reduce the threat of developing the condition,” explains Peter Larsen an optometrist and Specsavers Professional Services Director.
While having regular eye check ups every two years is vital to catching the diease in time, including low GI foods in our daily diet is another way to help maintain healthy eyes.
In consultation with Nutrition Australia, Specsavers have launched a campaign dedicated to educating everyday people about the benefits of a healthy diet and lifestyle for our eyes.
“What we eat can make a difference to our eye health. To reduce your risk of macular degeneration, eat low GI foods to provide your body with more of the healthy omega 3 fats and the vitamins, minerals and other antioxidants that can help protect your eye health,’ says Aloysa Hourigan, senior nutritionist at Nutrition Australia.
One simple change we can make to our diets is adding some colour to our plate with a range of vegetables says Hourigan. Other tips for maintaining healthy eyesight include:
– Aim for a diet that includes a good proportion of low GI foods e.g. wholegrains, many vegetables, fruit, nuts and legumes
– Replace white bread and refined breakfast cereals with wholegrain varieties e.g. wholegrain breads, porridge or wheat biscuit cereals
– Include a wide range of different coloured vegetables everyday – yellow, orange and red coloured vegetables are rich in the group of phytochemicals, known as carotenoids, which can help protect eye health
– Include fish high in omega 3 (e.g. salmon, sardines, tuna, mackerel, herrings) 1-2 times per week. Other foods high in omega 3 include walnuts, almonds, and flaxseed
– Limit the size of your red meat serves and limit your intake to 2-3 times per week
Stuck for low GI recipes ideas? Click here for Aloysa’s delicious Chickpea, Eggplant and Tomato Salad recipe.