Put the Savor Back in Life

As my father got older I really started to worry about his nutrition. Left to his own devices Daddy would prepare a lunch of canned peaches in heavy syrup, a couple of cookies and a bowl of ice cream. It was like dealing with the tastes of a six year old! Sugar, sugar and more sugar!

I eventually learned taste loss comes with old age. Since sweet is the last flavor we can still taste, many of us go to a high sugar diet. Not all that great.

Lost of taste is just one of the sensory losses we experience. Science Digest in February of 2016 ran an article reporting 94% of older Americans have at least one sensory loss. 38% have losses in two senses and 28% have three, four or five sensory losses. Some of these deficits were mild but many of them were serious. The study found 64% of their sample ages 57 to 85 suffered with a significant deficit in at least one sense. 22% had major deficits in two or more senses.

Yikes! This is scary stuff!

Sensory loss takes the savor out of life – literally. It is one of the main reasons people may report a reduction in the quality of life.

Alright, now that we have had the stuffing scared out of us, what can be done about this? Most sources suggest getting any potential sensory loss evaluated medically. Some sensory problems cannot be treated but there are some that can.

Just because some of us have a vision loss that is currently not treatable does not mean the same holds true for other sensory loss. Don’t be fatalistic! Go for help.

Then, of course, there are rehabilitation services. I would like to say rehabilitation services and assistive technology is universally available, but I know better. If you cannot get services funded, use resources such as this website. We regularly try to find things that are free or relatively inexpensive that can help you cope with your vision loss. I expect there are websites for hearing impaired although I am less optimistic about sites on taste, smell and touch loss.

And speaking of smell and taste loss…

In Betrayed by our Bodies – Sensory Loss and Aging Dan Orzech suggests the use of odor detecting technology so we can avoid burning up in a fire (smoke detectors) or being asphyxiated by leaking gas.

Orzech suggested using a little butter or gravy to make the odor and flavor of food more chemically available. (A man after my own heart!). He also reported dehydration can make it harder to taste so make sure you drink your fluids.

Although not being able to see colors well is a hallmark of AMD, do what you can to make foods bright, colorful and visually appealing. Intensely colored foods are rated as more flavorful that dull colored foods.

Given the number of readers and FaceBook members we have, I would suspect more than one or two of you are experiencing multiple sensory losses. Don’t ignore them. There really are ways to put some of the savor back into life!

Written August 4th, 2016

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Too Much of a Good Thing

by Cora Lyn Sears (see her biography at the end of this page)

2016 was a bad year. In the Spring I lost my hair, in the Fall I was diagnosed with wet AMD. How much worse could it get?

About 11 years ago I was diagnosed with mild AMD in both eyes, and took the Vitalux brand AREDS2 eye vitamins faithfully twice a day. (my mother lost her vision to AMD).

At my regular optometrist appointment last Fall it was determined one eye had advanced to wet. I was devastated! I hadn’t noticed much change in my vision, except I needed slightly more light to read and the reading portion of my progressive lenses seemed to have gotten smaller. The Amsler Grid still showed the same few wavy lines and few very light ‘puffs of smoke’ but nothing terrible. The speed of what followed was a bit scary – an almost immediate appointment with a retinal specialist followed by my first injection the next day.

Before this I had known of the injections for wet AMD but hadn’t thought much about them, thinking incorrectly a few injections would stop it almost permanently.

To date I’ve had the first three injections followed by the OCT testing which showed bleeding still happening. Then two more and another test. Still bleeding. Now on my next group of three.

I had begun researching and discovered your Facebook page and website, spending more time online than I thought possible. The more I read, the more I needed to read. The links to articles about the amount of zinc in my eye vitamins being a possible problem led me to search for the ones with less zinc, which were actually not that easy to find. Someone on your Facebook page suggested Walmart, which is where I finally bought them and switched in the late fall. [Lin/Linda: there are several options from Walmart, only PreserVision have the exact ingredients from the AREDS2 research study.  Click here to see what’s available.]

Now the other part:

Last spring I started losing my hair and within three weeks I was completely hairless. Alopecia universalis!  I tried everything my doctor or I could find with no success. An appointment with a dermatologist confirmed my worst suspicions that this was permanent. Apparently an autoimmune problem. Zinc enhances immunity, right? And I had been overdosing on it for over 10 years. So less zinc should help the autoimmune caused hair loss, shouldn’t it?

But then why is so much zinc in the AREDS2 formula when AMD is connected to the immune system as well?

In January I grew a few eyelashes, then came a few baby fine eyebrow hairs. Now, 14 months after losing my hair and seven or so months after cutting down the amount of zinc, I am starting to see a tiny bit of new growth on my head – only perhaps a few dozen or so, but it’s a start.

It’s amazing how everything in our body is connected and works in harmony, until it doesn’t.

An afterthought… Use the Amsler Grid by a window, not in the bathroom. I saw more wavy lines and puffs of smoke there than I had seen in the bathroom.

written July 23rd, 2017


I’m a healthy 70 year old woman. That’s hard to write as I really still feel 40. I live in Victoria, a beautiful city on the west coast of Canada. I’m divorced with two children and one older teenage grandson. I hike about 5 miles three or four times a week with a wonderful group of like-minded women. I’m a retired journeyman painter with varied creative interests such as sewing and photography. I love to travel, whether a road trip or something farther afield. I’ve followed a low-carb diet for years. I’ve had both hips replaced due to arthritis and sometimes I think if this was 50 years ago, I’d be sitting in a corner in a wheelchair going blind.

 Back to Our Guest Authors: Their Stories

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Moderation in All Things

Moderation in all things is an old idea. There are 2,000 year old references to it and it has been recycled and reused and rephrased millions and millions of time since then. Just about everyone knows what the saying means but sometimes we don’t practice the meaning.

Right now we don’t have much ‘to hang our hats on’ in the way of treatments for AMD. The one thing that seemed solid – but in actuality may not be all THAT solid – is antioxidants can help to control the development and progression of AMD. And if a little is good, a lot should be GREAT; right? Wrong.

To dredge up another old saying, there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. It is possible to overdo the antioxidants.

Wikipedia explains having too many bioavailable antioxidant compounds can interfere with the immune system. It’s an underlying cause of allergies, asthma and skin alterations. A reduction of free oxygen species can lead to allergic, hypersensitivity disorders. A common example of this type of disorder is eczema.

Many antioxidants are antinutrients. Antinutrients are compounds that interfere with the absorption of other nutrients needed for health.

There is also a question of how effective our bodies will ‘allow’ antioxidants to be. Poljasak and Milisav in 2012 noted there appear to be homeostatic mechanisms in cells that govern the amount of allowable antioxidant activity. Most people are able to maintain their setpoint of oxidative stress so no matter how much additional antioxidant they consume further decreases in oxidative stress do not occur.

And this is probably a very good thing. Reactive oxygen species are involved in chemicals signaling to regulate a large number of cell functions. The elimination of free radicals would only serve to severely disrupt the functioning of the cell.

Although the biochemistry is beyond my ken right now (and perhaps also beyond my Barbie – ouch! Don’t hit me! It wasn’t that bad!), it appears that in some cases antioxidants are helpful rather than harmful to cancer. Vitamin E and beta carotene supplements increased the rates of lung cancer in smokers.

And while we are talking about things I don’t understand, Poljasak and Milisav shared iron and antioxidants react to one another in weird ways. They also noted the levels of cellular iron increase as we age. Something else too much antioxidants could mess with.

Erica Wickham writing for Livestrong.com shared it is best to get antioxidants from food and not from supplements. Recommendations from the U.S. government are to consume a varied diet with at least five servings of fruits and vegetables and six to 12 portions of grain. In a day an adult should eat about 2.5 cups of vegetables. A half a cup of cooked grain or a slice of whole grain bread is considered a serving.

Once again we are back to my ‘grandma-isms’: moderation in all things and there really is such a thing as too much of a good thing. We have enough going wrong with our eyes. Upsets in cellular chemistry not required. Be smart with antioxidants.

written July 23rd, 2017

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That Preachy Zealot

Here she is again, that preachy zealot for clean living! How are you all doing?

I was looking for new info on AMD and I found this article.

I know I harp on this topic ad nauseam but seeing this in the new releases I could not help myself. I am basically weak (and can be profoundly irritating😎).

Anyway, a recent article on nature.com presented research suggesting AMD does not like clean-living folks. People working on the Blue Mountain Eye Study evaluated a group in the late 1990s and then again 15 years later. They looked at physical activity, diet, smoking and alcohol consumption as it relates to AMD. After all was said and done, the researchers decided it would be helpful if people could be encouraged to engage in good health habits.

They quoted data that women who eat well, are physically active and don’t smoke are three times less likely to develop AMD than women who do not have a healthy lifestyle. If you add the complement factor H at risk allele into the mix, the poor souls who eat crap, don’t exercise and smoke really don’t have much of a chance of dodging the disease at all.

What I just quoted was an older study, CAREDS. It used only women. The Blue Mountain people decided to replicate it but to include both genders. They also added alcohol consumption as a variable.

Blue Mountain concluded the combined effects of the four, healthy living variables were better than only one of the habits alone. They hypothesized each of the healthy habits helps to reduce oxidative stress and therefore reduce inflammation, generally thought to be a huge factor in the development of AMD.  [Lin/Linda: Sue talks explains what oxidative stress in her page Electron Rustlers.]

In addition, good health habits can affect the density of macular pigment. Thicker macular pigment can be protective. And BTW, levels of macular pigment can be negatively affected by obesity.

Since I always like to support our friends Down Under, I am making a pitch for healthy living just like the Blue Mountain people. Avoiding bad habits and developing good ones can decrease your chances of developing AMD. It can also reduce the rate of progression of the disease.

Hard to change habits? Absolutely. I am a carbs and salt girl. Horrible for me, but that is what I crave. I have never been a fruit eater.

However, since getting my diagnosis I am drinking a cup of fruit juice every morning. Enough of a change? I doubt it but at least I feel as if I am making the effort.

How long does it take to establish a habit? Google says 66 days. If you can change one thing in your lifestyle and stick with it for 66 days, you have dealt a blow against AMD. Lifestyle changes are one way we can take some of our power back from this disease. Worth a try. Continue reading “That Preachy Zealot”

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Timeline Part 1: Advances in Treatment & Care for People with Macular Degeneration

It’s Lin/Linda.  I created this page to go with Sue’s page Not Your Parents’ AMD.  Like some of you, I had a loved one with AMD.  It was my father who was diagnosed with AMD in 2005 at the age of 82.  At the time, I was living 700 miles away and I did not know much about the disease or at what stage he was diagnosed.  He progressed to geographic atrophy (GA), that much I knew.  He was the sole caregiver for my mother who had Alzheimer’s Disease.  He continued to drive (not safely), take care of her and the house.  He was never referred to vision rehabilitation or offered any help other than being told to use handheld magnifiers.

I wondered how things have changed since then which led me to do this timeline review.  Not only have there been advances in the medical end of the field but also in the technology that is allowing people to remain independent for as long as possible.  That is if a person learns how to use the various devices and apps available.

I’ve based the categories of time on an article Age-Related Macular Degeneration
1969 –2004: A 35-Year Personal Perspective by Stuart L. Fine, MD published in 2005.  He says “In 1969, patients with AMD constituted a small part of a typical ophthalmic practice. From 1969 to 2004, the prevalence of AMD has increased, and the methods of evaluation and treatment have changed dramatically.”

I know I have missed many events that have been critical to the history of the treatment & care of AMD.  There is SO much information out there and I’ve tried to use the most significant dates I could find.  Have a suggestion of what to include? Did I get a date wrong? Let me know in a comment or send me an email at light2sight5153@gmail.com.

1st Era: 1969–1979
  • Emergence of fluorescein fundus photography: test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
  • Development of ‘hot’ (high power) laser photocoagulation, first treatment for wet AMD
  • Relationship of drusen to age-related macular degeneration
  • Other developments:
    • 1976-1977 first personal computers affordable for home use
    • more low vision aids:
      • 1960s large print books became available
      • 1976 large print calculators became available
      • 1969-1970 CCTV (closed caption TV) for reading aid
2nd Era: 1980–1994
  • Clinical trials to evaluate new treatments, especially laser photocoagulation (1979-1994)
  • Development of risk factor data from large and small epidemiologic studies (epidemology is looking for patterns & causes)
  • mid-1980s term ‘senile macular degeneration’ becomes ‘age-related macular degeneration’
  • Other developments:
    • 1982 Vitreous Society was founded; 1983 first meeting attended by 44 retinal specialists
    • 1991 OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) test used in diagnosis of retinal diseases
    • mid 1980s name changed from ‘senile macular degeneration’ to ‘age-related macular degeneration’
    • 1992 Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
    • 1983 first cell phones
    • 1991 World Wide Web for ‘surfing’ the Internet with easy-to-use browsers
    • low vision aids:
      • MaxiAids catalog of aids for orders from people with low vision & other impairments
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 1982 DragonSystems founded Dragon NaturallySpeaking, speech to text
      • 1988 ZoomText was released which is software to magnify text on a computer screen
3rd Era: 1995–2003
  • Evaluation of radiation therapy for neovascular AMD, not proven to be effective
  • Assessment of pharmacologic interventions for neovascular AMD; Photodynamic Therapy (PDT) “cold” (low power laser) with Visudyne (first drug treatment;  2001)
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS released 2001
  • Other developments:
    • 1995 Amazon sells books online (1998 expands beyond just books; e-books 2000)
    • 1996 Google released
    • 1998 first e-book reader The Rocket
    • 2000 GPS available for civilians; 2001 personal navigation systems available like Garmin and TomTom
    • 2000 Microsoft & Amazon sell e-books
4th Era: 2004 – 2017
  • Completion of ongoing trials for neovascular AMD: FDA approval: Macugen 2004; Avastin 2004; Lucentis 2006; Eylea 2011
  • Earlier identification of eyes at risk: regular use of OCT (Optical Coherence Tomography) and other diagnostic tests
  • Prevention trials: results AREDS2 released 2013
  • Increased number of retinal specialists: eg, American Association of Retinal Specialists (ASRS), formerly Vitreous Society (see 1982 above), has 2700 members representing 60 countries.
  • Other developments:
    • 2011 First baby boomers turn 65
    • 2004 Facebook
    • 2013 first ‘bionic eye’ retinal implant, Argus II approved by FDA
    • technology:
      • 2007 Amazon Kindle e-reader; iPhone & Apple IOS
      • 2008 Android 1.0 & Android phone
      • 2010 Apple iPad
    • technology/low vision aids:
      • 2005 Apple VoiceOver for Mac users
      • 2009 VoiceOver added to iPhone IOS
      • 2010 FDA approved implantable telescope
      • smart glasses/wearable technology
      • 2014 KNFB Reader app for Apple & Android; 2017 for Windows 10
    • ongoing research areas:

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Holy Steve Austin, Batman!

“We can rebuild him. We have the technology.” – quote from the 1970s TV show “The Six Mission Dollar Man”.

Now the Pentagon is looking to equip American soldiers with bionic vision! Holy Steve Austin, Batman!

Granted, that might be something we question the wisdom for, but hold on, it is possible we might just benefit!

Lin found an article actually from 2015, but prior to this, the information had slipped right past us. It seems they have been working on contact lenses for macular degeneration. Anyone interested in becoming a cyborg?

We are going that way of course. Pacemakers, neurostimulators and wearable technology are all pointing in that direction. However, some of the wearable technology is clunky and well, ugly. These things go in your eyes and no one will be the wiser. Only my ophthalmologist knows for sure.

Right now everything is experimental. It will probably not come to fruition for several years, but the concept is intriguing. The lenses are a little thick and they don’t allow the eyes to breath as they should. They are not comfortable enough to wear for extended periods.

What is cool about the lenses is you can switch back and forth between 2.8 x magnification and regular vision. Blink one eye for magnification and the other to go back to normal view.

We will keep watch for developments in contact lenses as well as all, other areas of endeavor. Lin commented today on how crazy fast the research and discoveries have been coming.

I know I sound like a broken record, but there is much reason for hope. Together we WILL break the back of this thing.

And since that was less than 300 words, what else is happening? Well, I found an article on lutein. Lutein is a yellow pigment produced by plants. Although the assumption has been lutein is good for your eyes, it is thought to protect against light-induced retinal damage. The article, Safety and Benefits of Lutein, published by the National Capitol Poison Control Center, suggests a great deal more research is needed. This is particularly true for very large quantities of the substance. So far the only side effect known of lutein is it sort of turns you yellow.

According to the article, AREDS did not find lutein to have much effect in slowing AMD. However, there are larger amounts of lutein in eye vitamins than in basic supplements. Go figure.

Right now it appears they have not found any evidence to suggest lutein is harmful but they likewise have not found any evidence that says it is particularly useful, either. As in most areas of life, moderation appears to be the key. And remember, if you start to turn yellow, that is too much! Continue reading “Holy Steve Austin, Batman!”

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“They Call Me Mellow Yellow”

I’m just wild about saffron….they call me Mellow Yellow….remember that one?

Learning something new every day, I just looked up saffron. Did you know that saffron threads are the stamens (read ‘boy parts’) of the crocus? There is an average of three threads per flower according to seriouseats.com 150 flowers are needed to make one gram of saffron.

Saffron is already outrageously expensive at $2,000 to $10,000 per pound. However, it would be much more expensive if it were being harvested by people earning a decent wage.

So, if you are not hung up on the human rights issue, or the act of emasculating flowers AND if you have the money, saffron may be an AMD ‘treatment’/ supplement for you. There was a 2010 study suggesting daily, 20 mg doses of saffron may serve as protection against progression of AMD in early stage patients.

It seems that other than taste, saffron does have a few things to help justify that crazy price. Saffron includes antioxidants such as carotene, crocin and crocetin. (Wasn’t it nice of them to credit the plants these things were originally found in? Better than ‘George-in’ or something else after the name of the discoverers!) Antioxidants are good for quenching oxygen species that occur because of exposure to light. Remember oxygen species are chemicals which are the natural byproducts of chemical reactions using oxygen. We have lots and lots of those! However, oxygen species can run amok and cause lots of damage unless ’rounded up’ by antioxidants.

Anyway, Falsini et al proposed that by increasing the level of antioxidant protection with saffron there may be a way to allow damaged but still functional cells to recover. That was what their study was all about.

Now as studies go, this one did not appear to be very robust. There were only 25 people in the whole study, both treatment and control groups. That means only about 13 people got the treatment. I like studies with a larger n. That said, after 90 days of 20 mg of saffron daily, their treatment group did show a short-term, statistically significant effect on retinal functioning in those with early AMD.

Am I suggesting you take saffron pills every day? Absolutely not. Even with ‘cheap’ saffron, the pills they were using should have cost about $1.50 each. Many of you are on a fixed budget and another $10 per week spent on a source of antioxidants like that could be a burden.

Also remember, they found an effect in those with early AMD, no other stages.

What I am suggesting is this: there are dietary sources of antioxidants and a nice meal including saffron is one of them. You can get recipes using saffron on sites such as food.com, allrecipes.com and eatingwell.com just to name three.

It won’t hurt and it might even help.

“They call me Mellow Yellow……” Continue reading ““They Call Me Mellow Yellow””

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