- Several eye diseases share common characteristics that overlap with risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, like smoking, obesity or hypertension overlap
- The major ocular diseases are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma, that leads to visual impairment or blindness
- Regular physical activity, healthy diet, not smoking, maintaining a normal weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels benefit the heart as well as eye health
Lifestyle interventions taken to prevent heart diseases may also help prevent diseases of the eye such as retinopathy due to diabetes.
In a new study, published in the American Journal of Medicine, investigators found that a healthy heart indicates a healthy lifestyle and is also associated with lower odds for diseases related to the eye.
Ocular diseases, which are mostly preventable, affect about 2.2 billion people globally. Ocular diseases are age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma, which leads to visual impairment or blindness.
"Earlier studies have observed associations between eye diseases and individual lifestyle factors such as smoking, obesity, or hypertension," explained lead investigator Duke Appiah, PhD, MPH, Department of Public Health, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA. "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 of the metrics of ideal cardiovascular health with ocular diseases."
A recent online nationwide survey was conducted that included all racial and ethnic groups in the United States by the Wilmer Eye Institute at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Among the 2044 respondents, 88 percent of them considered good vision to be vital to overall health, with 47 percent of them rating losing their vision as the worst disease that could ever happen to them. About, 25 percent did not have any knowledge about ocular diseases and their risk factors.
The American Heart Association has prescribed a 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, healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight, and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.
The findings from the survey show that adhering to these seven rules will help to not only maintain good cardiovascular health, but also lowers the odds for age-related macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy, cataract, and glaucoma.
The results also showed that those with optimal cardiovascular health had 97 percent lower odds for diabetic retinopathy compared to individuals with inadequate cardiovascular health.
"Overall, we believe that primary prevention and early detection approaches of ocular diseases are important, considering that over half of all deaths from ocular diseases and cardiovascular diseases are known to be preventable," commented co-investigators Noah De La Cruz, MPH, and Obadeh Shabaneh, MPH, both from the Department of Public Health, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center, Lubbock, TX, USA.
The overlap of risk factors for ocular diseases and cardiovascular disease indicates the incorporation of screening for ocular diseases into the 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," noted Dr. Appiah.