Glaucoma is the leading cause of blindness in the United States.
This sneaky vision-stealer gives virtually no warning signs, not until peripheral vision starts to disappear. If left untreated, it can lead to complete blindness. But even with treatment, about 20 percent with the disease will still lose their vision in at least one eye.
Individuals who have a family history of glaucoma, or who know they are genetically at risk for the disease, can significantly reduce that risk by implementing some simple lifestyle adjustments.
A recent, large-scale study has identified one easy lifestyle change that can have a big impact.
What causes glaucoma
While high intra-ocular pressure (IOP) isn’t considered a direct cause of glaucoma, it is a major risk factor.
The back of your eye continuously makes a clear fluid called aqueous humor. As this fluid is made, it fills the front part of your eye, then leaves your eye through channels in your cornea and iris.
If these channels are blocked or partially obstructed, the natural pressure in your eye, which is called the intraocular pressure (IOP), may increase. As your IOP increases, your optic nerve may become damaged.
As damage to your nerve progresses, you may begin losing sight in your eye.
Too much caffeine triples glaucoma risk
Results of a study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City suggest that people with a strong family history of glaucoma should cut down on caffeine intake.
Dr. Louis Pasquale and his research team analyzed four years of health records from more than 120,000 participants in the UK Biobank. Participants were between 39 and 73 years old.
The researchers gathered data by examining health records, DNA samples, and responses to questionnaires about diet, and about family history of vision problems.
For people with a genetic predisposition to higher IOP, the study found that consuming large amounts of daily caffeine may more than triple the risk of glaucoma.
Specifically, those in the highest genetic risk score category who consumed more than 321mg of caffeine per day — roughly three cups of coffee — had a 3.9-fold higher incidence of glaucoma, compared to those who drank little or no caffeine and were in the lowest genetic risk score group.
Dietary changes can protect you from glaucoma
If your family history places you at high risk for glaucoma, now is the time to start cutting your caffeine intake.
Try replacing that second or third cup of coffee with some green tea. Two studies in 2010 clearly demonstrated that green tea’s antioxidants can relieve the oxidative stress that leads to glaucoma and is associated with damage to the optic nerve in glaucoma.
Your diet is also a powerful way for you to guard against glaucoma…
Make sure you get as many antioxidants in your diet as possible, especially vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, nitric oxide and glutathione.
Some studies suggest that levels of glutathione may be low in people with glaucoma. Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts are some of the best sources of glutathione.
Nitric oxide also works as an antioxidant and may help regulate intraocular pressure. You can boost your levels of nitric oxide by eating foods that contain naturally occurring nitrates that are converted to nitric oxide in the body, including beets and leafy greens.
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Intraocular Pressure, Glaucoma, and Dietary Caffeine Consumption — Ophthalmology
How Much Caffeine Is in Green Tea? — Healthline
Glaucoma facts and stats — Glaucoma Research Foundation
Role of Antioxidants for Future Glaucoma Treatment Possibilities and Patient Options — Glaucoma Research Foundation