Obese elderly people are more at risk of macular degeneration

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Data from the IBGE Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) show that Brazil has 61.7% of the population aged 18 years or more overweight. According to ophthalmologist Leôncio Queiroz Neto, from the Penido Burnier Institute in Campinas (SP), this portion of the population is at greater risk of losing sight as they age. This is what elucidates a recent research published in Science. The researchers claim that the high-fat diet disrupts the immune and metabolic systems of the eyes. Therefore, even after dietary changes and weight loss, the chance of developing age-related macular degeneration (AMD) increases, one of the biggest global causes of definitive blindness. The disease affects the central portion of the retina responsible for seeing details and affects 196 million people worldwide.

Queiroz Neto explains that AMD is a neuroinflammatory disease and can be of two types:

·Dry characterized by the formation of drusen or fatty deposits in the retina that lead to cell death.

· Moist characterized by the formation of neovessels in the retina that can leak a liquid or blood in the retina that makes the vision foggy.

“Other risk factors related to the development of macular degeneration are the habit of smoking, exposure of the eyes to the sun without protection and high blood pressure”, points out the expert.

The ophthalmologist states that the World Health Organization (WHO) establishes overweight between 25 and 29.9 of Body Mass Index (BMI), which corresponds to weight divided by height squared. Obesity is equivalent to BMI 30 or more. “When we are overweight we also have difficulty fighting free radicals that are part of the aging process. Therefore, we are more likely to develop cataracts. The disease makes the lens of the eye opaque, it is the greatest cause of treatable vision loss and its only treatment is surgery, which consists of implanting an intraocular lens that replaces the cloudy crystalline lens.

Queiroz Neto states that the more we gain weight, the greater the risk of contracting type 2 diabetes, a resistance of the cells to the insulin produced by the pancreas that causes the glycemia to accumulate in the bloodstream. To get an idea, a BMI above 30 increases the chance of contracting the disease by 10 times. The risk among people with a BMI greater than 35 is 80 times greater. The ophthalmologist says that after 10 years of living with diabetes most people develop diabetic retinopathy. However, with laser application and medical follow-up, it is possible to maintain vision in 90% of cases.

The ophthalmologist warns that many eye diseases appear after the age of 40 and may go unnoticed in the early stages. The recommendation is consultations every 2 years until the age of 59 and annually from the age of 60, regardless of weight.

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