Specsavers is urging Australians to consider making small changes to their shopping trolley in the lead up to Macular Degeneration Awareness Week, Monday 27 - Friday 31 May.

Macular degeneration is the leading cause of blindness and vision loss in Australia. One in seven Australians over the age of 50, almost 1 million people, will show some evidence of macular degeneration and without prevention and treatment, this will rise 70% by 2030. (1)

Peter Larsen, Specsavers Professional Services Director and practising optometrist, explains, "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."

In consultation with Nutrition Australia, Specsavers is encouraging Australians to include low GI foods in their diet, which is a simple way to help maintain healthy eyes.

Senior Nutritionist from Nutrition Australia, Aloysa Hourigan, advises, "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."

"Another simple change you can make to your diet is to add some colour to your plate with a range of different coloured vegetables," informs Mrs Hourigan.

Nutrition Australia recommends the following tips for maintaining healthy eyesight:

  • 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

Peter Larsen advises that as well making these simple changes to your diet, regular eye checks are essential for maintaining eye health.

"Macular degeneration affects the centre of your sight and can result in blind spots, blurred or distorted vision and eventual blindness. This disease can go unnoticed for some time but symptoms include the inability to see fine details, difficulty driving and difficulty recognising people’s faces.

"While making lifestyle and diet changes will greatly improve your eye health, it’s still important to have a regular eye test every two years, as some serious eye conditions, like macular degeneration, do not always have obvious warning signs," said Mr Larsen.

Specsavers offers free Digital Retinal Photography with every standard eye exam to help combat and monitor macular degeneration and other harmful conditions. Digital Retinal Photography uses sophisticated equipment to produce a high-resolution photograph of the eye, allowing abnormalities to be detected, monitored and treated. Images are then stored by your optometrist to track your eye health over time.

1. mdfoundation.com.au

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