When a lion runs towards you, you want to know about it. Our peripheral vision is optimised to spot movement, not detail.

When you read, watch TV, work on something or stare into someone's eyes on a romantic date .. it's detailed vision that you want, and that's provided by a part of the back of your eye called the macula.

You may have heard of age-related macular degeneration. People suffering from this condition have degraded detailed vision and sometimes can't recognise faces. Imagine trying to see only using your peripheral vision. Approximately 10% of people aged 66-74 years will show some macular degeneration, and that rises to 30% from 75-85 years of age1.

Fortunately, there's something you can do to reduce your chances of losing detailed vision as you get older.

The macula is an area of intense activity at the back of your eye .. it's actually the part of your body with the highest rate of metabolism. It uses the most oxygen, and as a result, it gives out the most free radicals. You may already know, free radicals are ageing and damaging to neighbouring photoreceptors With all that activity, no wonder the macula may wear out as we age.

Nature has a defence.

During the second world war, the British conducted a propaganda campaign, persuading the Germans that our RAF pilots could see at night because they ate more carrots. This is the origin of the idea of being able to see in the dark after eating carrots. The idea is that the carotenes in carrots aided eyesight. The Germans started research into it. Actually, we'd invented radar.

It turns out that only three (of the 700) carotenoids are present in the eye as macular pigments (they are yellow). They are present in specific places, meso-zeaxanthin is dead centre, with zeaxanthin in a band around that & lutein outside that, like a target board.

That carotenes are yellow is important because that filters out high energy (damaging) blue light, present in glaring reflections and also in the light from computer screens and TVs.

Not only that, these carotenoids absorb free radicals, helping to prevent damage to your macula area, and retaining your functioning detailed vision for longer, hopefully for your whole life.

Carotenoids are relevant to keeping your detailed vision. So how do you get them, and how do you know they are working?

From October, we'll be able to test the thickness of your macula pigment layer. It turns out if you're blue-eyed, you're more at risk. Sorry guys, but if you're an overweight, middle aged chap over 40, you stand a good chance of having almost no macular pigments.

Here's how to improve your intake of the key carotenoids: eat spinach & kale (they contain many times more of the visual carotenoids than carrots).

If you're already eating healthily, that's easy to do (but keep reading if you'd rather not). Kale (Sainsbury's in Scarborough sell it reliably) can be turned into an (honestly, delicious) salad by 'rubbing' it with oil and salt (recipes www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/17/kale-salad-recipes_n_3605499.html )

We understand that not everyone wants to do that. If that's you, we have multivitamin supplements that provide everything you need to help bolster and protect your macula pigment layer.

You can improve your macular health with some lifestyle changes too:

  • Stop smoking
  • Wear sunglasses and a wide brimmed hat on sunny days to avoid bright light.
  • Eat less red meat with fat in it
  • Take regular exercise and keep a healthy weight.

All this is fine, but how do you know it's working? We can measure the thickness of your macula pigment layer. Ask us to measure it at the start, then again later and we can quantify your improvement so you know whether you need to do more or your macula is safe.

We all want good eyesight. Age related macular degeneration is something we can take action on to improve our chances. It's worth looking after your macula.

1 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macular_degeneration 7 August 2013