Following a healthy lifestyle for cardiovascular health may also benefit eye health, according to a new study published in the American Journal of Medicine. Researchers believe that interventions that can prevent cardiovascular diseases may also hold promise in preventing ocular diseases, especially diabetic retinopathy.
Previous studies have found associations between eye diseases and individual lifestyle factors such as obesity, smoking, or hypertension. It is these same lifestyle factors that can contribute to poor cardiovascular health, and prior to this new study, no one has comprehensively evaluated the association of lifestyle habits, cardiovascular health, and ocular diseases.
Preventable with Lifestyle Interventions
Approximately 2.2 billion people suffer from ocular diseases worldwide, which can lead to vision impairment or blindness. The causes of blindness or vision impairment are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, glaucoma, and cataract. Researchers believe about half of these can be prevented with proper lifestyle interventions.
A recent online survey conducted in the United States by the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found that 88 percent out of 2,044 respondents considered good vision to be vital to overall health. Forty-seven percent of them rated losing their vision as the worst disease that could ever happen to them. Surprisingly, 25 percent did not have any knowledge about ocular diseases and their risk factors.
The American Heart Association depends on the assessment of cardiovascular health by using their metric called Life’s Simple Seven (LS7). This metric is based on the status of seven cardiovascular disease risk factors: not smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.
When researchers assessed these lifestyle habits, they were also found to be associated with lower odds for age-related macular degeneration, cataract, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy. Individuals with optimal cardiovascular health were also found to have 97 percent lower odds for diabetic retinopathy compared to individuals with inadequate cardiovascular health.
Data were analyzed from 6,118 adults aged 40 or more years old who took part in the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. It was found that a one-unit increase in an LS7 score was associated with reduced odds for age-related macular degeneration, glaucoma, and diabetic retinopathy.
Since there seems to be a significant overlap of the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and eye health, researchers are now recommending that screening for ocular diseases be incorporated into existing clinical and population-based screenings for cardiovascular diseases.
“We hope that our study findings will encourage adherence to healthy lifestyles in order to prevent these age-related diseases while also leading to increased collaborations between cardiologists, optometrists, and ophthalmologists in order to better prevent cardiovascular and ocular diseases,” concluded Dr. Duke Appiah, Ph.D., MPH.