Driving yourself to the farmer’s market, reading a new novel by your favorite author, admiring a breathtaking sunset. Preserving your vision is important for thousands of reasons, ranging from the purely practical parts of living life to the thoroughly ecstatic.
Among the many reasons to take good care of your eyes and lengthen their optimal functioning is the health of your bones. In fact the danger at the very heart of bone health is multiplied greatly by reduced vision.
I’m talking, of course, about the scientifically proven relationship between eyesight, falls and fractured bones… and it’s not a pretty picture, unfortunately.
So today we’ll have an in-depth look at a particularly unpredictable and dangerous group of eye conditions called glaucoma, and we’ll also dive into natural ways to prevent it.
Glaucoma And Bone Health: Is There A Connection?
The short answer to this question is that people with better eyesight suffer less fractures caused by falls, because they’re better equipped to avoid falling altogether.
An eye-opening (pun intended!) study published in the journal of the American Academy of Ophthalmology reports that those with central visual impairment (CVI) and peripheral vision impairment (PVI) had a much higher risk (almost three times higher) of falling than those with good eyesight.1 Peripheral vision impairment is of particular note to glaucoma, which we’ll address momentarily.
Furthermore, the study showed the proportional relationship between the increased risk of falling with injuries and the severity of the participant’s CVI and PVI.1 This is one of those classic cases of science confirming a conclusion that common sense suggests.
With good vision, you’re less likely to miss a step, or fail to notice an obstacle in your path. Your balance and your sight are also closely related, so better eyesight also means better balance.
And there’s more science-backed information on the connection between eyesight, falls and fractures, as shown in the next study.
Reduced Vision Equals Increased Fracture Risk
Australian researchers interviewed 3,654 participants 49 years old or older, and followed up three times over the next fifteen years. Each time they tested their vision and asked them about recent falls and any resulting fractures.
The findings confirmed what many other studies have suggested:
“Recent development of visual impairment was associated with increased likelihood of subsequent falls and fractures in the next 5 years.”2
Of note is that we are particularly at risk, as our eyesight declines, presumably because we have not yet adapted to our newly reduced level of vision.
No factor exists in isolation of course, and the interplay of conditions and causes can compound problems. Of particular note to those who have been prescribed (and have taken) osteoporosis drugs such as Fosamax (alendronate), is the fact that oral bisphosphonates increase the risk of macular degeneration, another leading cause of vision loss. Meaning that the drug prescribed to prevent fractures actually causes atypical fractures and increases the likelihood of falling due to impaired vision. Incredible!
What Is Glaucoma, And Am I At Risk?
Glaucoma is the name for a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve, which is essential for good vision. Typically, the damage is caused by an increase in eye pressure, called the intraocular pressure. Another risk factor is poor regulation of blood flow to the optic nerve, and oxidative damage.
Unfortunately, this is a condition that doesn’t discriminate. Everyone is at risk of glaucoma, from newborns to the oldest among us. However, older people are at a higher risk of developing the condition, marking another parallel to osteoporosis.
There is no cure for glaucoma, nor is there any way to regain vision lost from it. While there are treatments and surgeries that may halt the condition, the best form of offense is a good defense. Prevention is key, and let’s bear in mind that there are usually no symptoms to warn you of the onset of the condition.
The most common form is open-angle glaucoma, and it has virtually no symptoms. The increased pressure that creates the problems typically causes no pain. Vision loss starts with peripheral vision, which is the outermost sides of your field of vision.
Because most people unconsciously compensate for the gradual loss of peripheral vision by simply turning their heads to the side to see, they may not notice anything is wrong until they’ve lost a serious amount of their sight.
How Serious Is It, Really?
Incredibly serious. Glaucoma is the second leading cause of blindness in the world, according to the World Health Organization, and it is estimated that over three million Americans have it, though only half of those are aware of it.3 More than 120,000 Americans are blind from glaucoma, which accounts for 9% to 12% of all cases of blindness.4
Even if the condition never leads to blindness, visual impairment has an enormous impact on older populations, including on emotional well-being, physical functioning, independence, and increased mortality.5 Add into this the relationship between vision loss and falls and fractures discussed above, and it becomes readily apparent that glaucoma is no laughing matter. So be sure to have regular eye exams that include measurements of your eye pressure. I do that every year.
What Can I Do To Prevent Glaucoma?
More and more studies are linking specific dietary habits with a decreased risk of glaucoma. All together they paint a picture of a delicious diet that is both highly compatible with bone-healthy eating and shown to lower your likelihood of suffering from the dangerous and debilitating effects of glaucoma.
Here are the best foods you should include in your diet:
Kale* and Collard Greens*
Kale and collard greens made the cut due the impact of their high nitrate levels.
A study from the Harvard School of Public Health that looked at the dietary intake of a diverse swath of 63,893 women found that:
“Higher dietary nitrate and green leafy vegetable intake was associated with a lower primary open-angle glaucoma risk.”6
This promotes healthy blood circulation that leads to a 20 to 30 percent lower risk of glaucoma. In fact, for types of glaucoma linked to poor blood flow the risk reduction was as high as 50 percent!
Oranges* and Peaches*
As a resident of the American Southeast, both of these fruits are close to my heart. One study on the association between the consumption of fruits and veggies (including oranges and peaches) with a decreased risk of glaucoma found that:
“Higher intake of certain fruits and vegetables high in Vitamins A and C and carotenoids may be associated with a decreased likelihood of glaucoma in older African American women.”7
Specifically, it observed the impact of eating two or more servings of fresh oranges and peaches per week, so dig in!
Green tea contains polyphenolic antioxidants that fight bone-harming oxidation, and it turns out they’re also good for your eyes. The flavonoids in green tea have been connected to improving and reducing the progression of visual field loss.8 Just make sure to consume it in moderation, because it contains bone-harming fluoride.
The same players at work in green tea make cocoa a powerful force in preventing vision loss. To be specific, the polyphenolic compounds called flavonoids have neuroprotective and antioxidant power that benefit glaucoma patients and those taking action to prevent the disease. Make sure you consume cocoa without added sugar, fats, and other additives.
Much like green tea, red wine is acidifying. However, it has bone health properties (like the antioxidant resveratrol) that make it an acceptable treat in moderation. It likewise offers eye health benefits via the flavonoids that empower cocoa and green tea.
One exciting aspect of a diversified diet to combat disease risk is that it’s a great way to you protect yourself in many different ways, all in the same meal.
Even something like a berry salad can offer multiple fronts of resistance. Black currants for example contain compounds called anthocyanins that slow down the deterioration of the visual field.9 Scientists have inferred that this is because they help normalize blood flow in the eye. The berries with highest anthocyanin levels are cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherries, and blueberries. These berries are also powerful bone-builders.
Goji berries by contrast promote the survival of retinal ganglion cells (RGCs) in the retina. High intraocular pressure can destroy those cells, leading the loss of vision. But in an animal study, the subjects avoided the loss of RGCs if they were fed a goji extract.10
I’m listing berries as a single food, but in reality, there are seven distinctly delicious fruits. Bring on the berries!
Fish is a great source of protein as well as essential molecules like omega-3 long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids. Cold water fish like salmon also contains lesser known compounds like docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic fatty acids. Researchers that examined glaucoma patients and their healthy siblings found lower levels of these nutrients in the siblings with impaired vision.11
So include salmon in your meals a few times a week, but make sure it’s wild Alaskan and not farm-raised salmon, which could be GMO and raised with pesticides and antibiotics. You’ll live to see more days… with the emphasis on see.
Last but not least on today’s list, the mighty eggplant has been scientifically shown to decrease intraocular pressure.
In an effort to analyze visual function, scientists conducted a study in which they gave participants 10 grams (approximately 0.4 ounces) of eggplant to observe its effects. The results suggest that patients suffering from raised intraocular pressure will benefit from eating eggplant, as the study showed and amazing 25% decrease in eye pressure.12
* Foundation Food
Beyond Food: An Easy And Effective Way To Protect And Bolster Your Vision
At this point, it might not surprise you to learn that a recent meta-analysis confirms that fractures are caused by falls, and are not necessarily linked to osteoporosis.13 That same study also points to the overmedicating trend (that continues to grow) with osteoporosis drugs.
Quoting lead researcher, Professor Järvinen:
“Hip fractures are the result of falls or similar small accidents. Even if the older person has brittle bones, they are unlikely to fracture without an accident. Asking questions about balance disorders provides a more accurate understanding of the patient's risk for bone fracture than taking bone density measurements.”14
Clearly, preventing falls is key to preventing fractures. Savers know that good balance is crucial, and good vision is certainly an important determining factor.
Bone-healthy, nutritious meals have countless benefits for every part of the body and each one of its systems. Reducing the risk of glaucoma and vision loss is just the tip of the iceberg, but it’s an important risk to avoid.
In fact, you may want to enhance your diet with a supplement that contains the most powerful compounds scientifically proven to help prevent and reduce the risk of losing your eyesight.
It contains natural extracts from marigold flowers and saffron that combine the most effective eye-health bolstering compounds, and it’s made by our trusted friends at Nature City, the makers of other supplements recommended by the Save Institute.
I have written in the past about Zeaxanthin and Lutein for their bone building properties. Both are contained in Nature City’s TrueVision™ to provide protection for the macula by boosting concentrations of the yellow macular pigment that acts as a shield against harmful UV rays and oxidative damage. The saffron helps keep photoreceptor cells from suffering oxidative stress, making them healthier and longer-lasting. Plus it increases blood flow in the eye and helps maintain healthy intraocular pressure, which I discussed earlier as key to preventing glaucoma.
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1 Patino CM1, McKean-Cowdin R, Azen SP, Allison JC, Choudhury F, Varma R; Los Angeles Latino Eye Study Group. “Central and peripheral visual impairment and the risk of falls and falls with injury.” Ophthalmology. 2010 Feb;117(2):199-206.e1. doi: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.06.063. Epub 2009 Dec 23. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20031225
2 Thomas Hong; Paul Mitchell; George Burlutsky; Chameen Samarawickrama; Jie Jin Wang. “Visual Impairment and the Incidence of Falls and Fractures Among Older People: Longitudinal Findings From the Blue Mountains Eye Study.” Clinical and Epidemiologic Research. November 2014. Web: http://iovs.arvojournals.org/article.aspx?articleid=2266011
3 The Eye Diseases Prevalence Research Group, Arch Ophthalmol. 2004; Prevent Blindness America
4 National Institutes of Health; Quigley and Vitale, Invest Ophthalmol Vis Sci. 1997;
5 Ip SP Leung YF Mak WP. Depression in institutionalised older people with impaired vision. Int
J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2000; 15: 1120–1124.Web: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11180468
6 Jae H. Kang, ScD, et al. “Association of Dietary Nitrate Intake With Primary Open-Angle Glaucoma A Prospective Analysis From the Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study” JAMA Ophthalmol. 2016;134(3):294-303. doi:10.1001/jamaophthalmol.2015.5601. Web: http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamaophthalmology/article-abstract/2480455
7 JoAnn A. Giaconi, et al. “The Association of Consumption of Fruits/Vegetables with Decreased Risk of Glaucoma among Older African American Women in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures” Am J Ophthalmol. 2012 Oct; 154(4): 635–644. Web: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3448787/
8 Shaheen Patel, Joyce J Mathan, Ehsan Vaghefi, Andrea J Braakhuis. “The effect of flavonoids on visual function in patients with glaucoma or ocular hypertension: a systematic review and meta-analysis.”
Graefes Arch Clin Exp Ophthalmol. 2015 Sep 4. Epub 2015 Sep 4. Web: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/flavonoids-have-promising-role-improving-visual-function-patients-glaucoma-and
9 Kaori Yoshida, Ikuyo Ohguro, Hiroshi Ohguro. “Black currant anthocyanins normalized abnormal levels of serum concentrations of endothelin-1 in patients with glaucoma.” J Ocul Pharmacol Ther. 2013 Jun ;29(5):480-7. Epub 2012 Dec 21. Web: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/black-currant-anthocyanins-caused-normalization-serum-levels-et-1-and-may-slow
10 Hiu-Chi Chan, et al. “Neuroprotective effects of Lycium barbarum Lynn on protecting retinal ganglion cells in an ocular hypertension model of glaucoma.” Exp Neurol. 2007 Jan;203(1):269-73. Epub 2006 Oct 11. Web: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/goji-lycopom-barbarum-may-protect-retinal-cells-glaucoma
11 Hongmei Ren, Nwabueze Magulike, Kebreab Ghebremeskel, Michael Crawford. “Primary open-angle glaucoma patients have reduced levels of blood docosahexaenoic and eicosapentaenoic acids.” Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2006 Mar;74(3):157-63. Epub 2006 Jan 10. Web: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/primary-open-angle-glaucoma-patients-have-reduced-blood-levels-dha-and-epa
12 S A Igwe, D N Akunyili, C Ogbogu. “Effects of Solanum melongena (garden egg) on some visual functions of visually active Igbos of Nigeria.” J Ethnopharmacol. 2003 Jun;86(2-3):135-8. Web: http://www.greenmedinfo.com/article/eggplant-may-have-therapeutic-value-treatment-diseases-eye-involving-intraocular
13 Jarvinen, Teppo L.N., professor, et al. “Overdiagnosis of bone fragility in the quest to prevent hip fracture.” BMJ. May 27, 2015; 350:h2088. Web. http://www.bmj.com/content/350/bmj.h2088