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Heart disease: The new risk factor you might not see coming

Traditionally risk factors for cardiovascular disease include the lack of exercise, poor diet, and poor lifestyle habits such as smoking and drinking. However, these are only the most well-known risk factors. According to a new study, problems with eyesight could be a risk factor for the condition and a sign one’s risk of heart disease and stroke is rising. The disease in question is a variant of a common form of sight loss.

According to researchers from the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in the United States, people with a form of age-related macular degeneration known as blinding eye disease (BED) are at increased risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Lead author of the study Theodore Smith said of the research: “For the last three decades researchers have suggested an association between AMD and cardiovascular disease, but there has been no conclusive data on this until now.

“Our retinal team answered this important question by focusing on two different varieties of AMD.

“We discovered that only one form of AMD, that with subretinal drusenoid deposits (SDDs), is connected with high-risk vascular diseases.

Declining eyesight could increase someone's risk of a heart attack. (Image: Getty Images)

What are SDDs?

SDDs are very hard to detect, requiring high-tech retinal imaging to detect; they are made up of fatty lipids and form beneath light sensitive retina cells on the eye.

As a result, they are associated with vision loss.

Unfortunately, there is no treatment for SDDs.

With regard to their link to heart disease, the researchers believe poor circulation resulting from heart disease causes vision loss.

Author Jagat Narula said: “We believe poor ocular circulation that causes SDDs is a manifestation of underlying vascular disease.

“This has important public health implications and can facilitate population screening and disease detection with major impact.”

Narula added: “Seen in an eye clinic, such patients should be prompted to see a cardiologist.”

An eye exam can reveal abnormalities in eye sight. 

How to protect your eyesight.

The CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) has several tips on how people can protect their eyes and preserve their ocular health.

These include:
• Maintaining blood sugar levels
• Checking if there is a family history of eye conditions
• Eating a balanced diet
• Maintaining a healthy weight
• Wearing protective glasses were necessary
• Quit smoking
• Give the eyes a rest from screens
• Washing hands.

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