Managing Glaucoma: Effective Lifestyle Changes

young woman exercising in a park smiling

Learn about various lifestyle strategies for individuals diagnosed with glaucoma.

Glaucoma, a collective term for a group of eye diseases that lead to progressive damage of the optic nerve, stands as a primary cause of irreversible blindness globally. Glaucoma can stealthily compromise vision without early warning signs.

While medical intervention to lower intraocular pressure (IOP) remains the cornerstone of glaucoma management, integrating certain lifestyle modifications may mitigate its impact.

Continue reading to learn about various lifestyle strategies tailored for individuals diagnosed with glaucoma, including dietary, physical exercise, and stress management recommendations.

Diet and Nutrition: What to Eat and What to Avoid

Nutritional management may be a valuable adjunct to traditional glaucoma treatment. However, it should not be considered a replacement for conventional medical therapies.

Current research has yet to identify specific foods that can reduce eye pressure. While certain dietary choices may reduce the risk of glaucoma, the importance of specific dietary choices once a patient has glaucoma is unclear. A balanced diet rich in essential nutrients, such as antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals, can support overall eye health. Foods high in antioxidants, like leafy greens and colorful fruits, are particularly beneficial.

Foods to Include

  • Leafy greens
  • Berries
  • Omega-3 fatty acids (found in fish)

Foods to Limit:

  • High caffeine beverages
  • High-sodium foods
  • Excessive alcohol

Regular Exercise: Reducing Eye Pressure Naturally

In addition to positively affecting overall health, moderate exercise like walking or jogging can help reduce intraocular pressure, a critical factor in glaucoma.

Cardiovascular exercises enhance general eye health and vision and are particularly advantageous for individuals with glaucoma. According to Harry A. Quigley, MD, a professor and head of glaucoma services at the Wilmer Eye Institute, Johns Hopkins University, aerobic workouts reduce IOP, a key mediator in protecting the retinal ganglion cells. He also notes preliminary research indicates potential improvements in retina and optic nerve blood circulation improvements.

Recommended Exercises:

  • Brisk walking
  • Swimming

Stress Management: A Critical Factor in Eye Health

Stress is known to have a significant impact on various health conditions, including glaucoma. Excessive stress may exacerbate glaucoma by increasing IOP. Managing stress effectively is, therefore, an essential aspect of glaucoma care.

Although the exact relationship between stress and glaucoma is complex and not fully understood, it’s widely acknowledged that stress management can be beneficial for those with this condition.

Incorporating stress-reduction techniques into daily life can be helpful. These methods include:

  • Meditation: Regular meditation can lead to a more relaxed state of mind, reducing stress levels. It can be particularly helpful in managing the anxiety often associated with chronic conditions like glaucoma.
  • Deep Breathing Exercises: Deep breathing techniques can quickly alleviate acute stress, helping to lower heart rate and reduce blood pressure. It can be especially beneficial during moments of high stress or anxiety.
  • Yoga: Yoga combines physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation. It is known for its ability to reduce stress and improve overall well-being. Care must be taken to avoid positions where the head is below the heart, such as “downward dog,” which can elevate IOP. Working with a qualified instructor to modify one’s practice is recommended.
  • Mindfulness Practices: Mindfulness involves staying aware and engaged in the present moment. It can reduce the stress that often accompanies worrying about the future or ruminating over the past, which is particularly relevant for individuals managing a chronic condition like glaucoma.

It’s essential for individuals with glaucoma to consult with their healthcare provider before starting any new stress-reduction technique, mainly to ensure that any physical activities are safe and appropriate for their specific condition. Additionally, these stress management techniques should complement, not replace, the traditional medical treatments for glaucoma and concurrent mental health disorders.

Help Us Provide Hope

With early diagnosis, treatment, and careful monitoring, glaucoma can be successfully treated, preventing it from causing permanent and significant vision impairment.

The diligent work of researchers continues to lead to a better understanding of glaucoma every day. As a result, there’s great hope for new and improved treatments, including superior drug delivery methods, laser treatments, and less invasive surgical techniques. You can help make that happen!

Your support can help dedicated researchers continue to discover the causes and cures for glaucoma. In addition, your donations give hope to those living with glaucoma and accelerate our search for a treatment.


Posted on March 5, 2024. Article reviewed for medical accuracy by Sarah H. Van Tassel, MD.


Sarah Van Tassel, MD

Sarah Van Tassel, MD

Sarah H. Van Tassel, MD is a fellowship-trained glaucoma specialist and Director of the Glaucoma Service and Glaucoma Fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine Ophthalmology in New York City.