Preventing Glaucoma with Your Diet
Glaucoma impacts countless Americans, who often suffer from the disease without even knowing it. While scientists have yet to develop a cure, new research suggests specific dietary choices may go a long way toward preventing glaucoma.
According to researchers from Brigham & Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, people may be able to reduce their risk of developing glaucoma by eating more green leafy vegetables. Published in the Journal JAMA, the study followed more than 100,000 subjects for nearly two decades to see if diet might predict the development of glaucoma.
While none of the subjects had the eye disease at the study's outset, almost 1,500 developed it over the 20-plus-year period. Ultimately, researchers found that subjects where 20- to 30-percent less likely to develop glaucoma if they ate at least one-and-a-half cups of green leafy vegetables every day.
Assessing the Data
While the study did yield compelling results, experts can't positively identify a cause and effect relationship between vegetables and glaucoma risk. For instance, it may be possible that subjects who ate more leafy greens also exercised more and were more likely to avoid especially unhealthy foods. That said, experts do know that leafy greens contain natural nitrates, precursors to nitric oxide, which promote greater blood flow. This is important, since there is strong evidence that glaucoma is associated with an impairment of blood flow to the optic nerve.
Other Things You Can Do
A mountain of evidence has linked consumption of leafy green vegetables with reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and, now, glaucoma. Likewise, because it also promotes greater blood flow and overall cardiovascular health, exercise is another proven way to reduce your risk of glaucoma and a number of other health problems.
At the same time, because glaucoma can exist for years without causing noticeable symptoms, it's important to seek annual eye exams, especially if you are over the age of 40. Without proper treatment, glaucoma can lead to permanent blindness. In fact, the eye disease is the second leading cause of blindness in the entire world, according to the World Health Organization. With this in mind, be sure to prioritize your eye health by adopting a healthy diet and by making regular visits to the doctor.