If you have to grab your glasses to read a menu or to read the sports page in the Sunday paper, it’s probably inconvenient and a little aggravating? Most people think this loss of near vision is part of life. After all, it’s a simple and harmless effect of aging, right? Wrong!
New research suggests that this could be a signal of much bigger health problems. And “treating” it with drugstore reading glasses is the wrong step to take! What’s worse, taking poor near vision for granted may be a big mistake if you want to avoid Alzheimer’s as you get older! Here’s what you need to know to keep your eyesight and avoid memory loss.
Most people don’t realize that having good vision may play an unexpected role on their mental health. According to one study, poor near-range vision seems to accelerate the onset of Alzheimer’s with age.
In the study, doctors studied some 2,100 participants, age 65 and older, for seven years. They discovered that the folks who had considerable impairments in their near vision tend to demonstrate a steeper decline in mental function.
During the seven-year period, the participants (both men and women) periodically took standard tests of mental function. The doctors needed to be aware of impairments in corrected vision and for tests of near vision, so they asked people to read numbers from a card while they wore their glasses or contact lenses.
Seven percent of the patients had problems with near and distance vision, and twice that many had impaired near-range vision. Remember, many of them did wear glasses or contacts!
Compared to the folks with good close-range sight, patients who had near-range vision problems showed a quicker rate of decline in mental function (as measured by standard tests) throughout the course of the study.
Such findings really point out the importance of having a routine schedule of eye care for adults over age 40. Like it or not, all of us in this age group are at a greatly increased risk of vision-robbing eye diseases. Now it’s possible that the loss of near vision places us at risk for Alzheimer’s, too.
Why Does Near Vision Affect Your Mental Health?
The exact reason for the link is uncertain. But the theory is that poor close-range vision may inhibit good-for-your-brain activities, such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, knitting, hand quilting, or drawing.
According to the researchers, less visual stimulation to the brain seems to affect how nerve cells work. But I think there’s more to it than that.
You see, your eyes are an extension of your brain. What happens in your eyes is already happening in your brain. So if your eyesight is starting to decline, it’s likely your brain function is declining as well. You might not notice it as quickly as you notice your eyesight getting blurry. But it won’t be long until you notice your memories are a bit blurry too.
What Can You Do?
As we’ve discussed many times in the past, dementia risk is associated with poor diet and exposure to toxins, such as lead and mercury. This study demonstrates the importance of eating a healthful diet and keeping “mentally fit” throughout life.
First, be sure your diet includes omega-3 rich fatty fish, such as sardines, mackerel, and salmon. It’s best if you can eat this fish at least twice a week. The omega-3 fatty acid DHA from fish nourishes the nerve cells in your eye’s retina, which preserve near vision. Also, DHA makes up about a third of your brain mass and reduces risk of Alzheimer’s, too. If you do not eat fish routinely, take a good fish oil supplement every day.
In past issues of Nutrient Insider, I showed you how fish oil can heal the brain from major trauma. While the damage sustained through years of poor diet and toxin exposure may not seem dramatic, it can have the same impact on your brain as a major injury. So fish oil is a must for protecting your brain – and helping it recover from the onslaught of toxins we throw at it.
Next, make sure you regularly treat yourself to richly colored fruits. For good eyesight and mental health, I especially recommend blueberries. They preserve night vision and visual acuity and stop you from losing brain mass as you age! And bilberry, from European blueberries, preserves night vision and promotes healthy blood vessels to improve circulation all over your body. Since good circulation is so vital to good brain and eye health, I strongly recommend taking 2,000 mg of niacin (spread throughout the day) and one wafer of CircO2 daily.
CircO2 provides your body with nitric oxide (NO). One study found that an underproduction of NO results in various eye diseases which could be corrected by supplementation. There are ongoing studies that suggest NO eye drops can correct many eye diseases as well. These eye drops are not commercially available yet, but I’ll let you know when they are. There is a prescription eye drop called Vyzulta that has NO as a component of the drug. Your eye doctor may prescribe this for glaucoma. But most of us just need to add more NO to our supplement regimen to get the benefits.
You’ll also want to eat colorful vegetables, such as collard greens and spinach, which are loaded with sight-saving lutein. Spinach protects against a shrinking brain, too!
The Power of Melatonin for Brain and Eye Health
Another reason eye disease and Alzheimer’s are connected is that they both involve a build-up of plaque. In the brain, this is known as beta amyloid. In the eye, it’s called drusen.
Drusen are like biological trash in your eye. They’re tiny yellow or white deposits under your retina. They typically build up between the Bruch’s membrane and the retinal pigment epithelium of the eye.
Drusen is normal in small amounts, especially in people over age 40. However, as the number of drusen and their size goes up, it makes your eyes more susceptible to age-related macular degeneration.
As I mentioned, drusen is much like the plaque that forms in the brain of Alzheimer's patients. While they’re a little different, there’s growing evidence that macular degeneration and glaucoma are similar diseases to Alzheimer’s. They just have different outcomes. In fact, much of the research data suggest that the diseases share a common pathogenic mechanism. So what can you do to fight Alzheimer’s and these eye diseases? The answer is melatonin.
You probably know that melatonin can give you a wonderful night's sleep. But a new study shows just how important it is for your eyes.
The researchers started the study with a culture of human retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) cells. Then they exposed the cells to hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a normal constituent of all cells. If you add certain minerals to it, the result can be the formation of an extremely damaging free radical called hydroxyl radical. The researchers found that exposing the cells to a 0.5 millimolar solution of hydrogen peroxide killed 71% of the cells. That's pretty scary.
But it didn't end there. The researchers then pretreated the cells with a 10-10 M concentration of melatonin. They used this concentration because it's the same concentration of melatonin found in the blood of people with healthy melatonin levels. When they did this, they found that, depending on the dose, melatonin was able to protect almost all the cells from being damaged by the hydrogen peroxide.
Unfortunately, people with macular degeneration don't have healthy levels of melatonin. So the researchers wanted to know if that could be the very reason they get macular degeneration in the first place. So they looked at the levels of 6-sulphatoxymelatonin (a marker for melatonin levels) in the urine of macular degeneration patients. They found that their levels were a full 40% lower than people without the eye disease.
The researchers concluded that the low levels of melatonin in their blood could be the cause of their macular degeneration. That's an amazing finding! But these results are all in a lab. Do they work on humans? The answer came from another study.
In this study, researchers looked at 55 patients with either wet or dry macular degeneration. They gave them 3 mg of melatonin every night. After just six months, every single one of the patients noticed that their visual acuity stayed stable. This proves that the melatonin can at least stop the progression of the disease. But that's not all.
The researchers also noticed that the people taking the melatonin had a remarkable “change of the fundus picture [the retinal picture].” According to the researchers, “The majority of the patients had reduced pathologic macular changes.” This is incredible! But there’s more good news.
Melatonin for Your Brain
Another study found that melatonin may work directly on this pathogenic mechanism that causes both macular degeneration and Alzheimer’s.
The study looked at numerous other studies on macular degeneration, Alzheimer's, and melatonin use. The researchers found that melatonin works directly on your mitochondria, and helps keep your eye and brain cells healthy. The authors' conclusion: "An understanding of the processes related to extra-mitochondrial and intra-mitochondrial regulation of metabolism in the brain and in retina and their balance by a melatonin-Aß axis may emerge as new therapeutic pathway for the therapy of both AMD and AD."
In other words, melatonin could be one of the best treatments for both conditions. So if you have either macular degeneration or Alzheimer's, most studies recommend taking at least 3 mg of melatonin every night before you go to bed. However, you could need much more. In fact, some people may need to take 60 mg or more of melatonin per day.
This amount is very safe. I’ve had only one person react to these high doses of melatonin. One woman found that it disturbed her hormone balance and made her more emotional than usual. She reduced her dose and everything was back to normal – and she was sleeping great.
The best source for high dose melatonin is in the product Melatonin Max. You can order this product by following this link. Use the code “insider” and you will get 10% off and free shipping.
Don’t ignore the subtle changes in your vision as you go through your 40s, 50s, and beyond. We might not be able to avoid the need for prescription glasses or contacts. But I have seen some cases of blurred vision correct with the right nutrients. And these nutrients can often help you avoid the more severe eye diseases, as well as Alzheimer’s.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, April 2005, 53(4):681-6.
Rosen, R.B., D.N. Hu, M. Chen, et al. “Effects of melatonin and its receptor antagonist on retinal pigment epithelial cells against hydrogen peroxide damage.” Mol Vis. 2012;18:1640-8. Epub 2012 June 20.
Tosini, G., K. Baba, et al. “Melatonin: an underappreciated player in retinal physiology and pathophysiology.” Exp Eye Res. 2012 October;103:82-9.
Yi C1, Pan X, Yan H, et al. Effects of melatonin in age-related macular degeneration. Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2005 Dec;1057:384-92.