What’s Good for the Heart is Good for the Eyes

The following article was posted by Lauren Tappan. It was written by Maurie Hill for the Zoomed In blog.

Picture of Maurie's garden with a highlight on her spinach plantsAt the Foundation Fighting Blindness™ conferences that I’ve attended so far, there are always inquiries about diet and dietary supplements and their connection with different eye conditions.  The common response is “what’s good for the heart is good for the eyes.”  As simplistic as that sounds, it’s actually an excellent answer, especially when speaking to groups of people who have a wide range of eye conditions.

Not only have we become so far removed from the food chain, but we are also constantly bombarded with so many fad diets and suspicious sounding claims.  This unfortunately leads to people not taking the advice above to heart (pardon the pun).  I heard someone the other day pick up a bag of candy in a store and brag to a friend that it’s fat free.  Does that mean my vision will improve if I eat candy corn instead of avocados?  And yes, I’m hoping that sounds ridiculous to you.

Last year my relationship to food and what I eat was completely transformed after reading “The China Study” followed by “In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto”.  I was stunned by the relationship certain foods have with many different diseases, even those not commonly attributed to diet.  It shouldn’t be so surprising that we are what we eat.  Would a car be as efficient, long-lasting, and repair-free when running on fuel it was not designed for?  The food we were designed and born to eat is the kind that will fuel the human body beautifully.

Then there is the question of dietary supplementation and eye disease.  This is where you better be confident of your diagnosis as I discussed in Knowledge is Power because what’s happening at the molecular level will impact your dietary choices.  Take Vitamin A for example, which is metabolically processed in the visual cycle to help provide light to the retina.   At my visit to Dr. Rafael C. Caruso at the National Eye Institute in 2009, I learned that Vitamin A may actually be a bad thing for those of us with Stargardt Disease.  Because we are not able to synthesize it well, it can leave an excess of pigmented waste deposits, causing poor vision.  Conversely, Vitamin A is widely considered to be beneficial for those with Retinitis Pigmentosa.

All I know for sure is that I’m watching and waiting for my home grown vegetables to start popping out of the garden.  I’ve got a menu depending on it:  zucchini soup with Thai red pepper, roasted veggies, avocado on whole wheat toast, and lots and lots of chili.  And sprinkled with a little old-fashioned exercise, it’s good for my heart, helps me sleep and definitely makes me feel better.  Even if it doesn’t improve my vision, it gives me enough energy to face my visually challenging day.  And on a less selfish note, I’m aiming to minimize my burden on our expensive health care system.  But for right now, I deserve just a tiny chocolate treat after all this typing.  Nobody’s perfect all the time – what’s the fun in that?


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