In a new study, researchers found that ideal heart health, which is indicative of a healthy lifestyle, was linked to lower odds for eye diseases, especially diabetic retinopathy.
These findings suggest that interventions to prevent heart diseases may also hold promise in preventing eye diseases.
The research was conducted by a team at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center.
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.
Earlier studies have found links between eye diseases and individual lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, or high blood pressure.
It is known that these metrics of ideal heart health do not work alone and may interact additively to result in diseases.
Most eye diseases show few symptoms at early stages and many people may not seek medical care despite readily available treatments.
A recent online nationwide survey consisting of all racial and ethnic groups in the United States showed that 88% of the 2,044 respondents considered good vision to be vital to overall health with 47% of them rating losing their vision as the worst disease that could ever happen to them.
Alarmingly, 25% did not have any knowledge about ocular diseases and their risk factors.
This research shows that following healthy lifestyle and behavior habits can all contribute to good cardiovascular health as assessed by adherence to the American Heart Association’s prescription for health metric known as Life’s Simple Seven (LS7).
LS7 is based on the status of seven cardiovascular disease risk factors: not smoking, regular physical activity, a healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.
Practicing these healthy lifestyles together was found to be associated with lower odds for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma.
Individuals with optimal cardiovascular health had 97% lower odds for diabetic retinopathy compared to individuals with inadequate cardiovascular health.
In the study, the team analyzed data from 6,118 adults aged 40 or more years old who took part in the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.
The average age of participants was 57 years old, 53 percent of whom were women. A one-unit increase in LS7 scores was linked to reduced odds for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.
The team says they believe that primary prevention and early detection approaches of eye diseases are important, considering that over half of all deaths from eye diseases and heart diseases are known to be preventable.
Since there is a big overlap of the risk factors for eye diseases and heart disease, they recommended that screening for ocular diseases be incorporated into existing clinical and population-based screenings for heart diseases.
One author of the study is Duke Appiah, Ph.D., MPH, Department of Public Health.
The study is published in the American Journal of Medicine.
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