. . . it could double your risk for macular degeneration A European study on nearly 4,700 men and women over 65 found that daily aspirin users more than doubled their risk of late stage, "wet" macular degeneration. Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of legal blindness resulting in loss of independence among older Americans. The macula is a tiny, highly sensitive region in the center of the retina that allows you to see fine details and colors. Without it, you aren't totally blind, but all you see is shapes and movement in shades of black and white. With age, the macula can deteriorate in one of two ways. It can become thin and sprinkled with debris called drusen (the dry form), or blood vessels beneath the retina may push up into the macula and leak blood and fluids (the wet form). The wet form, which is considered the more serious, was the form associated with aspirin use in the above study. (Aspirin is known to cause small hemorrhages under the retina.) Other risk factors for macular degeneration include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, smoking, age, genetics, and being female and white. Although it is thought to affect 30% of adults 75 and older, a much smaller percentage of cases develop into the kind of late stage macular degeneration that leads to legal blindness. Apart from avoiding aspirin, there are many ways to prevent macular degeneration or keep it from progressing. Eating lots of green leafy vegetables is one of the best; kale, spinach, collards, Swiss chard, bok choy, etc. all contain the antioxidant carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which become concentrated in the retina and protect it from oxidative damage. Egg yolks are also high in lutein. Macular degeneration is largely caused by inflammation and oxidation, so plenty of antioxidants, like vitamins C, E, D, zinc, selenium, n-acetyl-cysteine, and lipoic acid are all protective. Fish and fish oil can cut your risk in half. It's also important to avoid transfats, processed oils, smoking, and excitotoxins like MSG and aspartame. deJong PTVM. Associations between aspirin use and aging macula disorder. Opthalmology. January 2012;119(1):112-118.
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