Glaucoma is a condition which affects 2.7 million Americans over the age of 40. Whilst there have been no studies that conclusively link lifestyle factors with glaucoma, it stands to reason that our lifestyle, as well as what we eat and drink will have some impact on our overall health and wellbeing, including our eye health.
Glaucoma refers to the gradual loss of eyesight as the result of a build-up of pressure (intra-ocular pressure, or IOP), which causes damage to the optic nerve. IOP is measured in mmHg , a unit that measures atmospheric pressure. Normal IOP levels are 12-22 mmHg. IOP levels appear to be genetically programmed traits; however there are some activities that can increase IOP in a short period of time. Here we will take a look at diet and lifestyle factors that could influence IOP.
What Elevates IOP?
Some activities elevate IOP levels. These include playing wind instruments, weight lifting, some yoga positions, wearing tight neckties and drinking coffee:
- A cup of coffee causes a 1-4 mmHg rise in pressure that last s for a minimum of 90 minutes.
- Playing wind instruments (such as saxophone, clarinet and oboe) can cause IOP to double in twenty seconds, but the pressure is alleviated as soon as the musician stops playing.
- Some yoga positions, where the individual’s heart is above the head, double IOP but pressure returns to normal within 5 minutes of completing the position.
- Wearing a tight necktie or shirt can increase IOP by around 2 mmHg.
- Weight lifting can cause a 4 mmHg rise in IOP, with a small (1 mmHg) decrease when the exercise has finished.
What Elevates IOP?
Exercise is shown to lower IOP, although it is not clear exactly how. The more intense the exercise performed, the greater the reduction of IOP. One study showed that 5 minutes after 15 minutes of moderate exercise (at 40% of maximum heart rate) IOP had reduced by an average of 0.9 mmHg, whilst the same period of exercise at 80% of maximum heart rate showed a drop of 4.7 mmHg. This reduction was not limited to young healthy patients; a further study showed that patients with suspected glaucoma experienced a 4.6 mmHg reduction in IOP after aerobic exercise.
Data shows that people who are more physically fit have lower IOP. So if you have glaucoma, or are at risk from developing the condition, regular exercise can help you to maintain healthy intra-ocular pressure.
What Can You Do?
The reduction in IOP after exercise lasts for just an hour in sedentary individuals who exercise occasionally, whilst those who exercise regularly will experience reduced IOP for 2 weeks if they become deconditioned. Regular exercise is, therefore essential, if you are exercising to manage IOP.
If you have glaucoma and have already suffered from sight loss as the result of damage to your optic nerve, stem cell application can help to prevent further damage and even reverse some, or all of the existing damage. In stem cell application, stem cells extracted from adipose (fat) are treated and reintroduced to your body, where they are attracted to the damaged site by a network of hormones. The stem cells will be drawn to your damaged optic nerve, where they will replace and repair damaged cells. The improvement in sight for many of our stem cell application for glaucoma patients has been remarkable.