According to the Glaucoma Research Foundation, glaucoma affects more than 3 million people in the United States and about 60 million people worldwide. A leading cause of irreversible blindness among people above the age of 60, glaucoma is a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is usually related to high pressure in the eye. The condition can occur at any age but is more common in older adults. Undergoing regular eye examinations can help detect the condition at an early stage. According to Glaucoma Research Foundation, good nutrition can make benefit people with the condition.
A healthy lifestyle with proper exercise and a nutritious diet is important for people with glaucoma. Though a healthy diet cannot fully reduce or prevent glaucoma and is not a substitute for glaucoma treatment, eating certain food items can improve blood flow to the eye and slow progression of the disease. Here is a list of foods that experts say can benefit people with glaucoma:
- Fruits and Vegetables – One study found that those women who consumed three or more fruits or fruit juice servings daily were 79 percent less likely to have glaucoma than those who had less than one. Fruits and veggies (like sweet potato, spinach, melons, tropical fruits, bell peppers, and berries) are rich source of Vitamins A and C as well as antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin. They can provide effective protection against oxidative stress associated with damage to the optic nerve and other tissues of the eye.
- Green leafy vegetables – In addition to promoting overall health, leafy green vegetables provide additional benefits for patients with glaucoma. Nitrates in green leafy vegetables such as spinach and kale support blood circulation and help regulate pressure inside the eyes. Research shows that people who eat more leafy green vegetables may have a 20 – 30 percent lower risk of developing the disease. Eating leafy greens can also reduce inflammation, and risk of cancer, heart disease, and even macular degeneration.
- Nuts – Nuts and seeds are rich sources of vitamin E. Vitamin E keeps cells healthy and protects them from radical damage that can break down the protective tissues in the eye. Snacking on sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, and pistachios – that have high levels of lutein and zeaxanthin – can help reduce the risks of age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.
- Omega-3s – Reports suggest that omega-3s may help reduce low-grade inflammation that plays an active a role in glaucoma and strengthen visual acuity and visual field. It also helps reduce glaucoma-related pressure in the eye. Fish such as tuna, halibut, sardines and salmon contain high levels of omega-3 fatty acids.
- Goji Berries – Berries help reduce the risk of vision loss as they contain antioxidants, especially zeaxanthin, that protect the retina from the ganglion cells that are responsible for glaucoma.
- Chocolate – According to a study published in JAMA Ophthalmology, adults who ate a bar of dark chocolate could see better about two hours later. This is particularly due to enhanced blood flow caused by antioxidants called flavanols in chocolate. These compounds can reduce the risk for macular degeneration by enhancing level of oxygen and nutrients to the blood vessels of the eye and brain.
- Tea – Per a study published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, people who had at least one cup of hot tea daily reduced their risk of developing glaucoma by 74 percent when compared to others who did not consume the beverage. It is suggested that the antioxidants and flavonoids in tea may improve the body’s ability to prevent the radical damage and help protect the eyes from diseases like glaucoma.
People diagnosed with glaucoma need to avoid foods that contribute to metabolic syndrome, obesity, blood pressure problems, and diabetes. Following a balanced and healthy diet by including the above food items can help maintain normal blood pressure and blood sugar levels and reduce the risk of developing glaucoma.