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Healthy Habits to Help Reduce Risk of Glaucoma by Brandy Augustine, O.D.

June 2, 2020

Dr. Augustine, O.D. is a primary care optometrist with the Marietta Eye Clinic who specializes in ocular disease and provides ocular surgery co-management.

Glaucoma is one of the leading causes of blindness. Vision loss caused by glaucoma cannot be reversed, but it can be prevented. There is some evidence that certain lifestyle changes may help reduce the risk of glaucoma when combined with clinical treatment. Although not all are proven to prevent glaucoma, all of the following tips are associated with reduced risk.

Eat fruits and vegetables high in vitamins and nitrates. In one study, women who ate foods high in vitamin A, vitamin C, and carotenoids reduced their risk of glaucoma by 55% to 79%. Many studies have found that patients with glaucoma have impaired nitric oxide signaling. Leafy, green vegetables are high in nitrates, which the body converts into nitric oxide. One study found that patients who ate collard greens or kale reduced their risk of glaucoma by 57%.

Sleep with your head elevated. A study found that sleeping with the head tilted up at a 30-degree angle reduced intraocular pressure (IOP) for 16 of 17 study participants. Out of all participants, 35% experienced a 20% reduction in IOP. Because high IOP leads to optic nerve damage, managing IOP is key to preventing vision loss related to glaucoma.

Avoid inverted posture. Placing your head lower than your heart for a prolonged period of time increases IOP. To prevent optic nerve damage, avoid yoga positions that involve lowering your head too much or bending over for long periods of time while doing activities such as gardening or cleaning.

Get some exercise — but control your breathing. When exercising or exerting yourself, it is important to control your breathing as much as possible. Exercising regularly is also important to regulating breathing and reducing blood pressure and IOP.

Try mindfulness meditation. Multiple studies have found that increased psychological stress can increase IOP. Relaxation techniques may help lower both psychological stress and IOP. In one study, all patients were given medicated eye drops and half had daily hourlong meditation sessions. In the group that combined meditation with medicated eye drops, 75% of patients experienced a drop in eye pressure of 25% or more.

Maintain a healthy body weight. Studies have shown that having a BMI that is higher or lower than recommended is associated with increased risk of glaucoma.

Have regular comprehensive eye exams. The best defense against glaucoma is having regular comprehensive eye exams. In a comprehensive eye exam, an optometrist or ophthalmologist can measure eye pressure and examine the optic nerve for signs of damage. These tests help eye doctors catch glaucoma before symptoms even develop. Although vision loss due to glaucoma cannot be reversed, it can be prevented in most cases.

Though the above tips may help lower IOP and reduce risk of vision loss due to glaucoma, it is important to follow your optometrist’s or ophthalmologist’s recommendations, including frequency of eye exams and clinical treatment for glaucoma. Combining your eye doctor’s recommendations with a healthy lifestyle is the best way to protect your vision.

More About Brandy Augustine, O.D.

Dr. Augustine is a primary care optometrist who specializes in ocular disease and contact lenses and provides ocular surgery co-management. She earned her doctor of optometry degree from the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Optometry. She is a member of many professional organizations, including but not limited to the Georgia Optometric Association, the American Optometric Association, and the American Public Health Association. She has also served as a co-investigator for contact lens studies. She volunteers her services with the Georgia Lions Lighthouse Foundation, Camp Seale Harris, the Gift of Sight Vision Van, and Volunteer Optometric Services to Humanity. Read more about Dr. Augustine in her bio.

References and Additional Resources

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) is the world’s largest association of eye physicians and surgeons. It describes itself as a “global community of 32,000 medical doctors who protect sight and empower lives by setting the standards for ophthalmic education and advocating for our patients and the public.” Its website is a great resource to learn more about how to care for your eyes.

The American Optometric Association (AOA) describes itself as the leading authority on quality care and an advocate for our nation’s health, representing more than 44,000 doctors of optometry, optometric professionals, and optometry students.

Herbs and Supplements for Glaucoma

https://www.aao.org/annual-meeting-video/herbs-supplements-glaucoma

8 Healthy Habits That (Possibly) Prevent Glaucoma

https://www.aao.org/eyenet/academy-live/detail/8-healthy-habits-that-possibly-prevent-glaucoma

Elevated sleeping position lowers nocturnal IOP

https://www.aao.org/editors-choice/elevated-sleeping-position-lowers-nocturnal-iop

Early Detection Key to Slowing Progression of Glaucoma

https://www.aao.org/newsroom/news-releases/detail/early-detection-key-to-slowing-progression-of-glau

Mindfulness Meditation May Help Fight Glaucoma

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/news/mindfulness-meditation-may-help-fight-glaucoma

Are there activities that make glaucoma worse? – Video Answer

https://www.aao.org/eye-health/ask-ophthalmologist-q/are-there-activities-that-make-glaucoma-worse-vide

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