In the Western world we are heading towards a perfect storm. Firstly, medical advances have led to many more people surviving illness, disease and chronic medical conditions such as heart disease. In many cases however, they still need to live with their specific health concern, or the effects of a disease. This ironically puts more pressure on NHS resources than if they hadn’t survived at all. Secondly, we are seeing the post war “baby boomers” heading into their 60′s. As this huge group of people get older, they will inevitably develop age-related illnesses and put an enormous additional pressure on the NHS. And this isn’t even mentioning the worldwide phenomena of growing levels of obesity and Type II Diabetes or the very real possibility that NHS budgets are actually going to be cut in the coming years.
However, the baby boom generation are also the first to have access to consumer health information, the first generation that has some tools to make independent choices about their health. We now have strong evidence that lifestyle and diet changes can make a big difference to the likely onset of a wide range of illnesses. So while the NHS wonders how it is going to cope with this perfect storm, our baby booming 60 somethings can start making changes to reduce the likelihood or at least delay the need for hospital treatment at all.
In this series of articles I’m going to look at different things we can all do to reduce the likelihood of contracting particular illnesses, but this is particularly relevant for the older generation as I will be focusing on health concerns that are more generally considered age-related.
Did you know that the leading cause of loss of eyesight for the over 55′s in the Western world is AMD? Did you know that between 25 and 30 million people suffer from this degenerative eye disease worldwide? Surprisingly, awareness about AMD is low. But recent research by the US National Eye Institute into AMD has led to some interesting suggestions for how people can reduce their chance of suffering from AMD (AND reduce its severity if diagnosed) with dietary changes.
AMD is a degenerative retinol disease that obscures centre vision and leaves only peripheral vision. There are 2 types of AMD. Wet AMD is when the blood vessels beneath the macular grow abnormally. Eventually they leak through and scar the macular, thus blurring vision. Dry AMD is when normal tissue in the macular gradually disappears causing “central geographic atrophy”
The US National Eye Institute carried out a large study called Age Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS) with a sub section that looked into AMD and diet specifically. They concluded that increased intake of “Omega 3” essential fatty acid could reduce your chance of developing wet AMD by 35% and dry AMD by 32%. This supports a study carried out in 2008 at the University of Melbourne, Australia which concluded that “omega 3” reduced your chance of developing AMD by 38% and it was also particularly helpful during the advanced stages of the disease. This study also concludes that eating oily fish twice a week was associated with a reduced risk in both early and late AMD.
Why does “omega 3” make a difference? It is widely accepted that these fatty acids, and particularly DHA play an important role in the layer of nerve cells in the retina and it is this role that leads scientists to understand why “omega 3” might reduce the chance of developing AMD in the retina.
More and more research comes to light that suggests “omega 3” essential fatty acids have far and wide reaching positive effects on our health, perhaps particularly for the older generation as this essential fatty acid seems so good at protecting the health of so many different parts of our body. I would imagine it hard to find a health professional who didn’t agree that we should eat more oily fish, and many who would also suggest taking a high quality “omega 3” supplement as well.