New study: A healthy heart means lower risk of eye disease

People have long understood that you need to keep your heart healthy. Eating well, exercising regularly, not smoking and controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure are five things that can have a big impact on your heart health.

A new study now reveals that looking after your heart is also linked to lower risk of eye disease, which is further good news for healthy Australians.

These findings, which appeared in the American Journal of Medicine, suggest that interventions to prevent cardiovascular diseases may also hold promise in preventing ocular diseases.

“Earlier studies have observed associations between eye diseases and individual lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity or hypertension,” explained lead investigator Duke Appiah, PhD, of Texas Tech University.

“It is known that these metrics of ideal cardiovascular health do not work alone and may interact additively to result in diseases. However, prior to our research, no other studies have comprehensively evaluated the association of all the metrics of ideal cardiovascular health with ocular diseases.”

Globally, about 2.2 billion people suffer from ocular diseases leading to vision impairment or blindness. Approximately half of these cases could have been prevented. The leading causes of vision impairment or blindness are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract and glaucoma.

Most eye diseases show few symptoms at early stages and many people may not seek care despite readily available treatments.

In the study, investigators evaluated data from 6,118 adults over 40 years old. The average age of participants was 57, and 53 per cent of whom were women.

Individuals with optimal cardiovascular health had 97 per cent lower odds for diabetic retinopathy compared to individuals with inadequate cardiovascular health. Data found similarly reduced odds for age-related macular degeneration, cataracts and glaucoma.

This research shows that following healthy lifestyle and behaviour habits can all contribute to good cardiovascular health and therefore, better eye health. Regular eye examinations with an optometrist are also an easy way to detect any signs of disease early and prevent or slow vision loss.

Keeping your heart (and eyes!) healthy

The Heart Foundation has loads of information and resources at the ready to help people keep their heart healthy. Some key tips include:

  • A heart healthy diet is a pattern of food you eat over days, weeks and months
  • Regular physical activity reduces your risk of having a heart attack or developing heart disease
  • Quitting smoking decreases your risk of heart attack and stroke almost straight away
  • Understanding and controlling cholesterol and blood pressure is key to your heart health

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