Everyone knows these days that an elevated cholesterol count spells trouble for the arteries and the heart. And everyone seems to know someone taking a class of drugs called statins that are prescribed to lower cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Many people also know about age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a disease that begins by blocking a person's field of vision at the very center of the view and then progressing outward, until all vision is lost. The blockage of vision is caused by a build-up of macula, which destroys the eye's cones and receptors, making sight impossible. In one advanced form of AMD, blood vessels in the eye grow abnormally and often leak or bleed. AMD is the leading cause of blindness in Americans over the age of 50. More than 10 million Americans are thought to have some form of AMD.
In April 2008, a team of scientists analyzing data collected in the Age-Related Eye Disease Study found that statins, which lower cholesterol by increasing blood flow, have a detrimental effect on the progression of AMD. The increased blood flow affects the arteries and veins in the eyes, where too much blood flow is already destroying the AMD patient's vision.
Unfortunately, statins and AMD have a lot in common, including patients who have need of lower cholesterol counts. Some risk factors associated with high levels of cholesterol in both the bloodstream and AMD are:
- The aging process.
- Family history.
- High blood pressure.
- Being overweight or obese.
- Consumption of a high-fat diet.
If AMD runs in your family, don't wait until being diagnosed with it or with high cholesterol levels. Although it's impossible to reverse the risk in all the factors listed above, some of them are a direct reflection on lifestyle choices. Waiting till the vision starts to go blank before finding statin-free methods to lower cholesterol may be too late.
It's never too late, however, to use a healthy lifestyle to lower cholesterol counts and improve arterial health and maybe visual health, too.
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