If you are male and smoke you have a significantly higher risk of developing age-related macular degeneration later in life than a person who does not smoke, according to a study carried out by Dr. Johanna M. Seddon, director of the Epidemiology Unit, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, USA, and team. Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the main cause of blindness and visual impairment for people over 60. As the human population in most of the world is getting older, the prevalence of this blinding disease is expected to rise.

The researchers also found that fish rich in omega-3 oils can protect people from developing the illness later in life. Such fish include mackerel, trout, sardines, tuna and salmon.

You can read about this study in the Archives of Ophthalmology.

Dr. Seddon said “Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration. This study of twins provides further evidence that cigarette smoking increases risk, while fish consumption and omega-3 fatty acid intake reduce risk of age-related macular degeneration.”

The researchers looked at data which compared 681 male twins from the National Academy of Sciences National Research Counciln World War II Veteran Twin Registry. The men completed a risk factor questionnaire as well as answering questions on their eating habits and whether or not they smoked. The scientists factored in other risk factors, such as any prior diagnosis of AMD. They all had an eye exam.

The researchers found:

–222 had intermediate and/or late-stage AMD
–459 had no signs of AMD at all
–Those who were still smokers were 1.9 times more likely to have AMD
–Those who used to smoke were 1.7 times more likely to have AMD
–The more omega-3 rich fish they ate, the lower their likelihood of developing AMD

Dr. Seddon added “Clearly, there is a genetic predisposition to age-related macular degeneration, but that does not necessarily mean you are destined to get the disease.? She stated that eating a healthy diet, doing regular exercise, not smoking and maintaining a normal healthy weight helped protect people from developing AMD.

Most experts agree that AMD risk is largely dependent on your genes. However, your lifestyle can have an enormous impact on when you develop it, if at all.

?Cigarette Smoking, Fish Consumption, Omega-3 Fatty Acid Intake, and Associations With Age-Related Macular Degeneration?
The US Twin Study of Age-Related Macular Degeneration
Johanna M. Seddon, MD, ScM; Sarah George, MPH; Bernard Rosner, PhD
Arch Ophthalmol. 2006;124:995-1001.
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Written by: Christian Nordqvist
Editor: Medical News Today