Choosing the Best Diet to Prevent Glaucoma from Progressing
Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness for people over the age of 60. But vision can be preserved longer with early detection, early treatment – and eating a healthy diet.
It’s not just about carrots! A balanced diet with a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables are needed for healthy vision. Foods that are rich in certain vitamins and phytochemicals are especially important for those already diagnosed with glaucoma.
Glaucoma is a disease that progresses slowly, robbing you of your sight a little at a time. In the healthy eye, a clear fluid called aqueous humor circulates inside the front portion of the eye. This fluid helps to provide consistent healthy eye pressure. For those with glaucoma, aqueous humor builds up over time and the pressure causes damage to the optic nerve. The optic nerve, connected to the retina inside the eye, sends signals to the brain where they are interpreted as the images you see.
There are several risk factors for glaucoma that you cannot control, including aging, family history or heritage (especially African, Hispanic, or Asian). Risk factors that you can control are complications arising from health problems such as diabetes and high blood pressure. This is where improving your diet is most useful.
Fruits and vegetables that are rich in carotenoids have benefits for vision health. Those most helpful are collard greens, cabbage, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery, carrots, peaches, radishes, green beans, and beets.
Other foods rich in antioxidants that can preserve vision include pomegranate, acai berries, cranberries, dark chocolate, black and green tea, bilberry, lycopene (from tomato products), dark green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach, and flax seeds.
Review your diet and ensure you have an adequate intake of these vitamins and minerals:
• Vitamins A
• Vitamin C
• Vitamin E
There is no evidence that dietary supplements have any effectiveness for preventing glaucoma or other eye diseases, but if you have a less-than-perfect diet, you may want to consider a general multivitamin to cover your bases. Discuss any supplements you are taking with your doctor to ensure that they do not interfere with your other medications or cause unwanted side effects.
Remember that a healthy diet, regular physical activity and adequate sleep are extremely important, but they do not replace the care you receive from a physician, who will put you on a treatment plan best for your situation.
Glaucoma Research Foundation. "What vitamins, nutrients will help prevent glaucoma from worsening?." ScienceDaily, 14 September 2016.
Jae H. Kang, et al. Association of Dietary Nitrate Intake With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma. JAMA Ophthalmology, 2016; 1 DOI:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.5601
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