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

Vision Direct test people's eyesight at Liverpool Airport

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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.”

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.”

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.

The reason why maintaining blood sugar levels is so important says the CDC is because of the link between blindness and diabetes.

This is a condition known as diabetic neuropathy, one that occurs when high blood sugar levels damage the back of the eye, causing blindness.

While the notion of becoming blind as a result of diabetes sounds like a terrifying one, the NHS say “it usually takes several years for diabetic neuropathy to reach a stage where it could threaten your sight”.

Nevertheless, it highlights the importance of managing blood sugar levels if diagnosed with diabetes.

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