Healthy Living with Glaucoma

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Dr. Diane Bovenkamp

For people with glaucoma or at risk of developing it, a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise and a nutritious diet is especially important. In addition to benefiting overall physical and mental well-being, it promotes eye health. Maintaining mental and emotional health is also important.

  • Sarah DiSandro: Hi, I’m Sarah DiSandro and I work for National Glaucoma Research, a program of the BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization leading the fight to save sight and mind.

    Today, we are talking with Dr. Diane Bovenkamp, Science Communications Specialist, about healthy living with glaucoma. First, I’d like to caution that the information we’re providing today is a public service of the BrightFocus Foundation and is not intended to be medical advice, so please consult your physician. All medications and supplements should only be taken under medical supervision, and the BrightFocus Foundation does not endorse any medical product or therapy.

    Hi Diane.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Hello.

    Sarah DiSandro: Being diagnosed with Glaucoma can be a very scary experience. But it’s important to remember that although there is no cure for glaucoma, through early diagnosis and treatment, the disease can be controlled before vision loss or blindness occurs. So it’s critical to get a comprehensive annual dilated eye exam.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Absolutely. In fact, an important part of living a healthy lifestyle with Glaucoma is to take any prescribed medication consistently and exactly as directed by your doctor.

    Sarah DiSandro: Can you share some of the most important “healthy living” tips for those who have been diagnosed with Glaucoma?

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Sure. In addition to benefiting overall physical, mental, and emotional well being, it promotes eye health. It’s best to eat a varied and healthy diet. There is no scientific evidence suggesting that certain vitamins and minerals prevent glaucoma or delay its progress. However, there are many nutrients that may contribute to better vision, including carotenoid food pigments that collect in the macula (especially ones called lutein and zeaxanthin), antioxidants (such vitamins C and E), vitamins A and D, zinc, and omega-3 fatty acids.

    Sarah DiSandro: What kinds of foods contain these nutrients?

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: There are varying levels of each nutrient depending on the type of food. I’ll give a few examples for each. Lutein and zeaxanthin are found in dark green, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables, including: spinach, broccoli, sweet potatoes, egg yolks, and mango.

    You can find vitamin C in foods such as: citrus fruits, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, sweet potatoes and leafy greens. On the other hand, vitamin E is found in foods like whole grains, fortified cereals, fruit, leafy greens, nuts and nut oils, and eggs. Vitamin A is found in foods like liver, sweet potatoes, carrots, mangoes, milk, and egg yolks. The main dietary sources of Vitamin D are cod liver oil, cereal, egg yolks, and fortified milk.

    Foods with zinc include oysters, red meat, poultry, certain seafood, nuts, dairy, beans and fortified cereals. Finally, good sources of omega-3 fatty acids are: wild salmon, sardines, and other cold water fish, walnuts, and flax or chis seeds.

    Try to mix together foods from many of these nutrient lists when preparing your meals. In addition try to limit caffeine intake to moderate levels.Some evidence suggests that high amounts of caffeine may increase eye pressure.

    Sarah DiSandro: Thanks Diane. This is great information that I’m going to try to apply to my daily meals. Also, are there non-food ways to maintain a healthy lifestyle?

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Yes there are, a very important thing you can do is try to exercise daily.Not only is it important to keep your whole body healthy, but some studies indicate that exercise can lower eye pressure. Aerobic activities such as walking, swimming, or even working in the yard are recommended, even if you can only do minutes at a time. However, some aerobic activity may increase eye pressure, so always consult a doctor before beginning any exercise program.

    It’s also important to maintain a healthy weight. This is true for prevention of many diseases.

    Get your blood pressure checked at regular intervals and keep it at a normal level, in addition to controlling other medical conditions in partnership with your doctor.

    Sarah DiSandro: Are there other things that we can change in our daily routines that could improve our overall health?

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Yes, one very important habit to kick is smoking. Not only is smoking associated with cancer and other diseases, it is also associated with an increased risk of macular degeneration and other eye conditions. Finally, another habit to add to your daily routine is to prevent overexposure to sunlight by wearing wide-brimmed hats and high quality sunglasses that have 99 to 100-percent UVA and UVB protection. It’s not just your skin that’s sensitive to the sun.

    Sarah DiSandro: Thanks for sharing this important information with us today, Diane.

    Dr. Diane Bovenkamp: Thank you for inviting me.

    Sarah DiSandro: Thanks everyone for listening. Stay tuned for future podcasts on Glaucoma. For more information about Glaucoma or to get involved in advancing research to end this eye disease visit, or call 1-855-345-6NGR, again that’s 1-855-345-6647. Thanks again everyone.

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