Guest post contributed by Meredith Rogers
If you have increased risk factors for glaucoma such as family history, genetic predisposition, injury, diabetes, or older age, it is important to make lifestyle choices that may protect your vision. Although you can’t prevent glaucoma from happening or repair losses to your sight that occur from glaucoma, certain lifestyle habits and changes can lower the eye pressure and protect the optic nerve from damage from glaucoma.
When attempting to apply any of these changes to your lifestyle, it is imperative that you first speak to your doctor. Lifestyle changes are not a one size fits all situation, and in trying to lower your eye pressure, you may inadvertently put your sight at greater risk or harm other parts of your body.
Certain lifestyle factors can affect one’s blood pressure and help keep a person and their eyesight healthy. It is generally accepted that exercise is a key component of a healthy lifestyle. People who exercise tend to maintain a healthy weight, which can help keep a healthy blood pressure. Exercise for weight control can also help stave off certain types of diabetes. Unfortunately, many types of exercise also raise eye pressure, so any plans to implement exercise for people who may have glaucoma need to be approved by a physician. For example, weight lifting is known to increase eye pressure, and yoga, in poses where the head is lowered can also increase eye pressure.
Smoking is another habit that affects the eye’s pressure. Cigarette smoking increases the risk of glaucoma and increases eye pressure, smoking for a long portion of ones life increases ones risk of developing intraocular pressure. Intraocular pressure is a risk factor for glaucoma, even if smoking isn’t considered to have a direct correlation to developing glaucoma. Intraocular pressure can put pressure right on the ocular nerve and damage eyesight. Smoking Marijuana, on the other hand, decreases intraocular pressure. The effects of smoking marijuana are short lived, with decreased intraocular pressure, only last about three to four hours. It’s said that glaucoma risk is one of the leading reasons people apply for medical marijuana prescriptions.
Drinking alcohol is also a contentious topic when it comes to intraoptic pressure and glaucoma risk. Alcohol’s short term effect on eye pressure is that it lowers it, but drinking long term can be a risk factor for increasing eye pressure. A doctor will most likely never recommend that a person start drinking alcohol or increase the amount of alcohol that they drink in order to aid their overall health. If you have glaucoma or if you have an elevated risk for glaucoma, talk to your doctor about your alcohol usage, they may recommend that you drink less of it.
Drinking coffee or other forms of caffeine can also affect your intraocular pressure. Caffeine can increase the risk of intraoptic pressure and people who consume five or more cups of coffee a day have a directly increased risk of glaucoma itself. High caffeine intake is also linked to higher blood pressure which is another risk factor for eventually developing glaucoma.
To sum it up in a few words, any activity that causes a person to hold their breath or strain their breathing, or to be upside down (handstands, cartwheels, some yoga poses, ect) and playing wind instruments with high resistance (tubas, oboes, saxophones, French horns and the like,) can all raise a person’s risk of developing glaucoma.
Doctors suggest that exercise should be done daily to keep blood pressure and weight at a healthy range, but that the exercise should be aerobic and non straining. Swimming and walking are good options for people looking to keep their intraoptic pressure down.
Sun and light exposure can also be a factor in increased intraoptic pressure and possible damage to the optic nerve. Practicing proper sun care, wearing sunglasses and limiting the exposure to and the brightness of artificial lights such as cell phones, television screens, and computers can keep eye strain and eye pressure down.
People with African American, Caribbean, Japanese, Hispanic or Chinese heritage may have a genetic predisposition to developing glaucoma during their lifetimes. Studies show that African American patients who take prescription preventative eye drops can decrease their risk of developing glaucoma by as much as fifty percent.