Glaucoma Alternative Therapies

Excerpted from

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Glaucoma : The Essential Treatments and Advances That Could Save Your Sight

By ,

Take a positive and hope-filled approach to an exercise regimen. Exercise should be viewed as a prescription to be enjoyed, not endured. Your goal in planning an exercise program should be to select activities that you will enjoy doing. Think of each of your workouts as your own special time-a time you need and deserve to unwind and recover from the stresses of your day. Otherwise, you will have a hard time sticking to your plan.

To increase your general activity level, begin with small steps. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, and park at the far end of the lot instead of at the front. Do you live within walking distance of a store or mall? Start doing some of your errands on foot. Take a stroll to visit a friend instead of picking up the phone. Plant a garden. Wash your car. If the weather is bad, drive to your local shopping mall and log a few laps as you window-shop. Put on some music and dance. Ride a bicycle. Go for a swim.

To make working out even more fun, convince a friend or partner to join you. That will also make it more difficult for you to skip a day.

If you are interested in beginning a more formal exercise program, it should include each of these elements: aerobic, strength, flexibility, and balance/stability training. Naturally, any exercise program should involve the guidance of your internist.

Aerobic Training

Aerobics, or endurance exercises, such as walking, running, biking, and dancing, cause your heart rate to increase for an extended period of time. Since your heart is a muscle, causing it to work harder strengthens it. Aerobic exercises also strengthen your lungs and circulatory system and help blood sugar. Not only will this enhance your health and build stamina, but it will also burn calories.

Whenever you move your body faster than usual to perform any aerobic exercise, your heart begins to beat faster (your pulse increases), and your breathing becomes heavier (your respiratory rate increases). As you increase your activity level, the muscles in your body require increased amounts of blood and oxygen as nourishment. The more intense your activity, the faster your heart will beat, and the more deeply you will breathe. But there is no need for you to spend your entire workout gasping and gulping for air. Moderate exercise can be just as good for you as more vigorous exercise, like running.

To reduce your IOP, you should spend about thirty minutes doing aerobic exercise at least four days a week. If you haven't been exercising lately, it will take some time to work up to thirty minutes of activity. Add as little as five minutes at a time until you get there. Start out each session slowly so your body has a chance to warm up.

Don't feel as though you have to go all-out for the full thirty minutes of each exercise session. In general, there is a target heart rate zone for each of us, and as long as your heart rate falls within that zone, your health will benefit. To calculate your target heart rate, subtract your age from the number 220. That number, in beats per minute (bpm), is your maximum heart rate. Your target zone is generally 50 to 80 percent of that number. For instance, if you are a fifty-year-old woman, your maximum heart rate is 170 bpm. Your target heart rate zone is 50 to 80 percent of that, or 85 to 136 bpm. Where you should aim within that zone depends on your health and fitness level. Your internist can help out by reviewing your exercise plans with you.

If you work out in a gym, you will find that many treadmills, exercise bikes, and other pieces of equipment now come with heart rate monitors. Portable heart rate monitors that fit around your chest can also be purchased at sporting goods stores. But it won't cost you a cent to take a moment out of your workout to measure your own pulse. The carotid pulse should be easy for you to find. Place two fingers on one side of your neck, below your chin bone and almost directly under your ear. You should feel the throbbing of your pulse. Or you can check the pulse on the inside of your wrist, if you find that easier. Either way, count the beats for ten seconds, multiply by sue, and you will know your heartbeats per minute. If you can do this safely while exercising, it will give you the most accurate measure. Otherwise, take your reading immediately upon stopping, before your body has had a chance to cool down.

Even without taking your pulse, you should be able to tell if your heart is beating too fast. A general rule of thumb is that if you are breathing too hard to talk, you should slow down. But if you can sing without any problem, you probably are not exercising hard enough.

Strength Training

As we age, we all lose muscle mass and our bones weaken. This is especially true for women. Not only does this increase the likelihood of weight gain, but it also makes us physically weaker. Strength training can help prevent this. Except in cases where a patient has very advanced glaucoma-related nerve damage, I allow weigh' training, although I discourage extreme amounts of weight.

Even small increases in muscle mass can yield great improvements in our ability to function and lead independent lives as we grow older. Another especially important benefit of strength exercises is that they can help prevent osteoporosis. Resistance training can also reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. If you have Type 2 diabetes, this type of exercise can help improve your glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.

In general, free weights and ankle weights are inexpensive, and they do not take up much room in your house. You can also build muscle through resistance training with elastic bands (available at sporting goods stores). If you prefer a gym setting, you will probably have a greater choice of equipment. Your local Y or community center may also have a good workout facility, and you may prefer the atmosphere. One benefit of a gym or your local Y is that there will be instructors present to make sure that you are doing the exercises correctly. Some professional guidance, at least at the beginning, can help ensure that you are using the proper form for your workout. A trainer can show you how to prevent injuries and help you get the maximum benefit from your workout.

Tags: Health

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