Living life with glaucoma can require important lifestyle changes in order to protect your eye health. We’ve already covered which types of exercise you should and shouldn’t do if you have glaucoma. In this article, we’ll look at how a glaucoma diagnosis impacts dietary choices.
While there’s currently no cure for glaucoma (the leading cause of blindness in those over 60), it’s important to know that healthy food and drink choices can play a role in preventing the disease’s progression.
Dr. Chad Carlsson, founder of Carlsson Family Eye Center, stresses the importance of diet with his patients. “Don’t become diabetic, and try to maintain normal blood pressure through a healthy diet. This is part of living a healthy lifestyle that will keep you away from secondary diseases like glaucoma, which are due to an inactive lifestyle and poor diet,” he says.
Keep reading for a list of do’s and don’ts you should be aware of when it comes to glaucoma and foods. Of course, always check with your eye doctor and primary care physician to get the right recommendations for you.
DON’T: Overdo the caffeine
So many of us go straight for that cup of coffee first thing in the morning, but people with glaucoma should try to limit the amount of caffeine they consume. This is because caffeine can increase intraocular pressure (IOP) for up to three hours if large amounts of caffeine are consumed in a short period of time.
DO: Switch to green tea
Green tea can help you decrease your overall caffeine intake, since a cup of green tea has roughly half the amount of caffeine of a cup of coffee (about 40 mg compared to 95 mg). Bonus: Green tea contains beneficial antioxidants and flavonoids, and has been proven to lower cholesterol and blood pressure, two known risk factors for glaucoma.
DON’T: Consume too many processed and fatty foods
Foods containing trans fatty acids are linked with increased levels of high cholesterol and can damage blood vessels — including those in our eyes — and our optic nerve. Avoid making fried foods (such as french fries or fried chicken) or fatty baked goods (like donuts, cakes and cookies) a routine part of your diet.
Foods high in saturated fats include fatty cuts of beef, pork, poultry with skin, butter and cheese. These foods can also cause high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and weight gain, which have been associated with increased pressure in the eye.
Check food labels for partially hydrogenated oils and high saturated fats, and try to reduce your reliance on these foods.
DO: Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, complex carbohydrates and seafood
Including more whole foods in your diet is always a good recommendation for improving overall health, and has been shown to be effective in reducing the risk of glaucoma, as well. Dr. Carlsson advises steering clear of processed foods and staying along the perimeter of the grocery store — where the fresh vegetables and fruit can be found.
Vegetables supplying nitric oxide to the diet have been shown to improve blood circulation, and this has potential benefits for glaucoma patients and in reducing glaucoma risk. Vegetables including leafy greens (kale, spinach, and collard greens, for example), cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage) and root vegetables (beets, carrots, sweet potatoes) all contain vitamins that benefit eye health.
Complex carbohydrates — such as whole-grain rice, beans and legumes, and sweet potatoes — help manage insulin levels, which can help decrease IOP and blood pressure. Skip foods loaded with simple carbs (pasta, white rice and baked goods, for example) and stock up on complex carbs instead.
Finally, the fatty acids in seafood may be beneficial for glaucoma patients. Wild-caught salmon, and fatty cold-water fish like sardines, tuna and mackerel are all good choices.
Dr. Carlsson’s final words of wisdom for glaucoma patients or those at risk? “Maintaining a healthy weight and doing cardiovascular exercise leads to a healthy heart and good blood flow for our bodies, which includes blood flow to the eyeballs.”
If you’re concerned about glaucoma or other vision issues, come talk to us. Our goal at Carlsson Family Eye Center is to help our patients improve eye health and full-body health.