10 Tips to Reduce Your Chance of Losing Vision from the Most Common Cause of Blindness
Glaucoma, a condition that damages the optic nerve because of increased pressure on the eye, affects nearly 60 million people worldwide. The condition, which can be treated though not reversed, is one of the leading causes of vision loss. According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO), it’s long been thought that lifestyle choices don’t play a part in developing glaucoma. But research indicates that’s not the case.
Here, from the AAO, are ten lifestyle tips to manage your risk:
1. Exercise Regularly
A recent study from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) showed that people who engaged in moderate to vigorous physical activity appear to have a 73 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma. This is because blood flow and pressure inside the eye may change with exercise, which may affect glaucoma risk.
2. Eat a Diet Rich in Fruits and Vegetables
Especially great, leafy vegetables! Research conducted by investigators from Harvard shows that people who ate more leafy vegetables have a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of developing glaucoma. Why? Nitrates in green vegetables can be converted to nitric oxide, which can improve blood flow and help regulate pressure inside the eye.
3. Drink Coffee in Moderation
Better yet, drink tea instead of coffee. A study published in December 2017 by researchers from Brown University and UCLA showed that people who consumed at least one cup of hot tea daily had 74 percent decreased odds of having glaucoma compared with those who did not consume hot tea. A little coffee is fine, but excessive caffeine intake is not ideal. One study found that drinking five or more cups of caffeinated coffee daily increased the risk of developing glaucoma. How can tea help? Antioxidants and the flavonoids contained in tea may improve the body’s ability to prevent the harmful effects of free radical damage.
4. Consider Taking a Magnesium Supplement
A study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology suggests that an adequate intake of dietary magnesium may be beneficial for patients with glaucoma. Why? Magnesium improves circulation and seems to have a beneficial effect on glaucoma patients’ vision.
5. Brush, Floss, and Visit the Dentist Regularly
A recent study by researchers from Harvard Medical School showed that tooth loss may be linked to increased glaucoma risk. This is because periodontal disease may trigger an inflammatory response that can contribute to glaucoma.
6. Don’t Smoke
Studies indicate that smoking cigarettes increases the risk of glaucoma and has an overall negative impact on eye health.
7. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
A study published in the Korean Journal of Ophthalmology shows that people with a higher body mass index (BMI) are at increased risk for diabetes, and having diabetes puts people at risk of glaucoma. Having a too low BMI is also associated with increased glaucoma risk.
8. Avoid Inverted Postures in Yoga
Head-down positions can increase eye pressure and are not recommended for glaucoma patients, according to an international study published in PLOS. There are plenty of yoga exercises that don’t have this effect.
9. Don’t Wear Neckties
A study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology says that a too-tight necktie may increase the risk of glaucoma by increasing blood pressure inside the eyes.
10. Get Screened Regularly for Glaucoma
Especially if you have a family history of the condition! Researchers from the University of Iowa recently identified certain genes that increase the risk of glaucoma. Those at higher risk of glaucoma include people of African descent, people with diabetes, and those with a family history of glaucoma. You are at increased risk if you have a parent or brother or sister with glaucoma.
“Some patients say that they feel powerless against a disease like glaucoma,” said Davinder Grover, M.D., a clinical spokesperson for the American Academy of Ophthalmology. “By offering information about lifestyle factors, we hope to help empower them to live their lives in a way that will have the greatest positive impact on this disease, and improve their quality of life immediately.”
As always, check with your doctor to make sure that that these steps are right for you.
For individuals age 65 or older who are concerned about their risk of eye disease, you may be eligible for a medical eye exam often at no out-of-pocket cost through the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeCare America® program. For those at increased risk for glaucoma, they may qualify for a glaucoma exam through EyeCare America. This public service program matches volunteer ophthalmologists with eligible patients in need of eye care across the United States. To see if you or a loved one qualifies, visit EyeCare America to determine your eligibility.
For more information on glaucoma or other eye conditions and diseases, visit the American Academy of Ophthalmology’s EyeSmart® website.
The American Academy of Ophthalmology is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. A global community of 32,000 medical doctors, we protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public. We innovate to advance our profession and to ensure the delivery of the highest-quality eye care. For more information, click here.