Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and atherosclerosis are both linked to the inability to remove a buildup of fat and cholesterol. The study leads to an interesting question – whether lowering cholesterol levels could translate to better AMD prevention.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss among those over the age of 50, and now the researchers found it shares an underlying defect with atherosclerosis. The study was conducted on mice and human cells.
Patients with atherosclerosis are often prescribed cholesterol-lowering medications – statins. The study found that effective cholesterol control may help patients better manage their age-related macular degeneration, too.
Senior investigator Rajendra S. Apte said, “Based on our findings, we need to investigate whether vision loss caused by macular degeneration could be prevented with cholesterol-lowering eye drops or other medications that might prevent the buildup of lipids beneath the retina.”
The researchers identified the protein – ABCA1 – needed to clear fat and cholesterol out of the cells. In aging mice and humans, the production of this protein is progressively decreasing, which means decreased ability to clear the accumulating fat and cholesterol.
The researchers then treated the cells with a drug that helped restore ABCA1 and slow down the development of new blood vessels.
First author Abdoulaye Sene said, “We were able to deliver the drug, called an LXR agonist, in eye drops. And we found that we could reverse the macular degeneration in the eye of an old mouse. That’s exciting because if we could use eye drops to deliver drugs that fight macular degeneration, we could focus therapy only on the eyes, and we likely could limit the side effects of drugs taken orally.”
Apte concluded, “We have shown that we can reverse the disease cascade in mice by improving macrophage function, either with eye drops or with systemic treatments. Some of the therapies already being used to treat atherosclerosis target this same pathway, so we may be able to modify drugs that already are available and use them to deliver treatment to the eye.”
Tips to improve cholesterol
Along with an HDL-boosting diet, there are other ways to raise your good cholesterol:
- Exercise regularly
- Lose some weight
- Take a look at your genetics – sometimes cholesterol issues are inherited
- Promote good gut bacteria with probiotic-rich foods
- Reduce stress
- Quit smoking
- Reduce your intake of dietary saturated fats
- Limit your intake of simple carbohydrates
- Keep alcohol consumption to a minimum
By following these natural tips, you can have greater success in improving your HDL cholesterol all the while lowering your LDL levels.
Treatment and prevention of age-related macular degeneration
Adequate vision quality is essential for a normal, healthy life. The use of corrective lenses, either glasses or contacts, can help improve your central vision. Annual checkups with an ophthalmologist are important for monitoring the progress of AMD. Regular visits to the optometrist are essential for early detection of the AMD onset.
Just like an unhealthy diet can increase one’s risk of developing age-related macular degeneration, eating a healthy diet can improve the condition. Ensure you’re enjoying a variety of fruits and vegetables, which are nutrient powerhouses.
Eye exercises may help maintain vision, too. Healthy lifestyle habits can also help you support your vision health. Not smoking, controlling blood pressure and cholesterol, and wearing protective eyewear – sunglasses, safety goggles – can all contribute to healthier vision and slow down progression of age-related macular degeneration.