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Health Information Center

Reducing Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

  • Amy Scholten, MPH
Publication Type:


Reducing Your Risk of Macular Degeneration

Lifestyle changes may help keep eyes healthy. This may help reduce the risk of macular degeneration. Some things that may help are:

Eating a Healthful Diet

A high fat diet can increase fatty plaque buildup on the macular vessels. This can reduce blood flow in the eyes. Eating a more healthful diet can help reduce this risk. Some steps are:

  • Not eating fatty meats, fried foods, and full-fat dairy products
  • Avoiding lots of butter, high-fat sauces, cheese, and cream
  • Limiting margarine, chocolate, pies, cakes, cookies, potato chips, French fries, and other highly processed foods
  • Eating lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, low-fat or nonfat dairy products
  • Eating lots of whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables.

Eating More Leafy Green and Yellow Vegetables

Lutein and zeaxanthin are yellow pigments found in the macula. They are thought to protect the macula from light damage and free radicals. Free radicals are harmful molecules that can damage cells in the body. They come from environmental sources. This includes things like cigarette smoke, air pollutants, radiation, certain drugs, and toxins. They are also made during normal body processes.

Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green leafy and yellow vegetables. Eating lots of these vegetables may help slow or prevent macular degeneration.

Foods High in Lutein Foods High in Zeaxanthin
  • Kale
  • Turnip greens
  • Collards
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Lettuce (raw cos or romaine)
  • Peas
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Green beans
  • Tangerines and tangerine juice
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Okra
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes and tomato juice
  • Carrots
  • Papayas
  • Melons
  • Corn
  • Spinach
  • Collards
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Lettuce (cos or romaine)
  • Tangerines
  • Peas
  • Green beans
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Peaches
  • Carrots

Increasing Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake

Eating fish adds omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 may reduce the risk of wet macular degeneration.

Protecting The Eyes From Ultraviolet (UV) Light and Blue Light

The primary source of UV light is sun. Sunglasses should be worn on sunny and overcast or hazy days. UV protection on sunglasses should be labeled UV 400. UV protection is also available for clear lenses and does not change the color of the glass.

Other sources of UV light are:

  • Computer screens
  • Fluorescent lightning
  • Xenon arc lamps
  • High-intensity mercury vapor lamps (used for night sports and in high crime areas)

Quitting Smoking

Smoking can damage the eyes. Heavy or long term smoking may raise the risk of macular degeneration. Those who smoke should consider quitting. The doctor can help them find the best method for quitting.

Getting Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity is good for overall health. It helps improve blood flow and may increase blood flow to the eyes.

Having Regular Eye Exams

It is important to have regular eye exams. The doctor can advise how often to be tested for eye diseases, including macular degeneration.

Controlling Other Health Conditions

Diseases like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes can affect vision. Controlling these diseases can help reduce eye problems.


  • Age-related macular degeneration (AMD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/age-related-macular-degeneration-amd.
  • Age-related macular degeneration. National Eye Institute (NEI) website. Available at: https://www.nei.nih.gov/learn-about-eye-health/eye-conditions-and-diseases/age-related-macular-degeneration.
  • Macular degeneration. Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: https://eyesight.org/macular-degeneration.
  • Ratnayake K, Payton JL, et al. Blue light excited retinal intercepts cellular signaling. Sci Rep. 2018;8(1):10207..
  • What is macular degeneration? American Macular Degeneration Foundation website. Available at: https://www.macular.org/about-macular-degeneration/what-is-macular-degeneration


  • Mark Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.