Control and Nutrition for a Healthy Sight

by Federico Bartolomei

Initiative promoted by the Istituto Cavazza to prevent age-related macular degeneration.

Each year, over 63 thousand Italians are affected by age-related macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is a disease affecting people generally over the age of 50. AMD affects the macula (the central part of the retina) therefore reducing central vision.
The prevalence of age-related macular degeneration increases exponentially with age, involving 10 to 20% of people over 80 years of age, and is the main cause of low vision in older adults in industrialized countries.
People who have AMD can experience major difficulties in seeing fine details up close or from a distance, making it difficult to read or even recognize people's faces. The most important risk factors of age-related macular degeneration are: smoking, high blood pressure, exposure to strong sources of light, and bad nutritional habits.
It is therefore understandable that one's lifestyle plays a major role in the quality of life per se and in the preservation of a healthy sight.
With the initiative "Control and Nutrition for a Healthy Sight" proposed by the Istituto Cavazza in collaboration with community pharmacies of the Gruppo Admenta Italia, Ancescao Coordinamento Provinciale di Bologna and the sponsorship of Rete Italiana Città Sane-OMS, the goal was to create awareness and inform the population more at risk of being affected by this disease. During the week of February 23 to 28, 2009, brochures were distributed free of charge in all the community pharmacies and social centres for older adults, members of the Ancescao of the province of Bologna, in which there were useful tips to maintain a healthy lifestyle as well as the Amsler grid, an easy test (Vedere Oltre, no 1, 2009) which allows the identification in its early stages of some visual abnormalities.

The initiative was carried out as well in every community pharmacy of the Gruppo Admenta Italia in the cities of Milan, Lissone, Cremona, Parma, Prato and San Giovanni Valdarno.
Some useful advice for a healthy and balanced diet for the prevention of problems linked to sight.
Eat fish at least twice a week, preferably fatty fish rich with polyunsaturated fatty acids such as cod, tuna, salmon and mackerel. To cook, use oil that is stable in cooking and rich with antioxidants like extra virgin olive oil. Eat fruits and vegetables of the season, at least five portions a day. It is not difficult to do! Here is an example: an orange juice, a green salad, a potatoe with the skin, a vegetable soup, a pear. Let's vary the vegetables according to their colour of dark green,

Image - Amsler grid

yellow, orange, red, violet, or white. Each colour represents different vitamins and mineral salts.
In season, broccoli, spinach, cabbage and Brussels sprouts are rich with lutein.
Limit the consumption of food that is too rich in sugar or animal fats and which are full of calories. Reduce sweets, jams, ice cream cones, cookies, sugar, frozen food, pork meat, meat that is too fatty, sweet drinks filled with calories, alcoholic beverages, chocolate candies, cheeses high in fat content, cold meats.
Reduce to a minimum your salt intake. Reduce to a minimum the quantity of seasoning on vegetables and meats (learning the use of more herbs and aromas to vary flavours) and use a moderate amount of salt in the water used for boiling (pasta, rice, potatoes).
Source: « Groupe d’experts en micronutrition oculaire - Micronutrition et œil en pratique : Les bases », Bausch & Lomb Laboratoire Chauvin Ed. 2005

Picture - Basket of various fruits