There have been studies undertaken over the past several years to try and understand if there are any of our day-to-day activities that either help or hurt the management of glaucoma.
Most of the studies demonstrated very little impact on the course of glaucoma. Here are some of the things researches have looked at.
Aerobic exercise: This means doing something at least four times per week for more than 20 minutes at a time that raises your pulse rate to a level that makes your heart work harder. Going from a sedentary lifestyle to active one with aerobic exercise resulted in a very slight decrease in baseline eye pressure.
Yoga: A study conducted at the Mount Sinai Health System (https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0144505) showed a significant increase in eye pressure with any head-down positioning. People with glaucoma would be wise to avoid any exercise that involves a position where your head is lower than your heart.
Weight lifting: Holding your breath while exerting yourself (called the Valsalva maneuver), is also a time when your eye pressure can go sky high. So if you lift weights for exercise, which is generally a good idea to maintain bone density, make it low weights with more repetitions of lifting, rather than heavy weights that make you grunt.
Wind instruments: A similar breath-holding problem applies to those playing the larger wind musical instruments like the French horn. One study suggested that there was a greater chance of glaucoma in symphonic wind players. If you play a brass instrument, it makes sense to have frequent checks of pressure, optic nerve head and visual field.
Marijuana: Smoking marijuana can lower eye pressure. However, due to its short duration of action (3-4 hours), side effects, and lack of evidence that it alters the course of glaucoma, it is not recommended for glaucoma treatment.
Wearing tight neckties: This creates a very short-duration increase in eye pressure but doesn’t seem to have any long-term effects.
Diet: A recent report from the Nurses' Health Study showed that higher dietary intake of nitrate, derived mostly from green leafy vegetables, was associated with a lower risk of developing open angle glaucoma.
Things that don’t seem to make much of an impact: alcohol consumption and caffeine intake are pretty much unrelated to causing glaucoma or making it worse.
The other concern that many glaucoma patients have is “using your eyes.” Go ahead and “use” them all you want. Things like reading, using a computer or watching TV don’t have any impact on glaucoma.
Article contributed by Dr. Brian Wnorowski, M.D.
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