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Two Birds, One Stone: How to Prevent Vision Loss AND Heart Disease

Health advice, often contradictory, seems to come from every corner these days. Do eat grains, don’t eat grains, more fat in your diet, less fat in your diet, dairy is killing us, but yogurt will save your life! However, researchers have found ties between age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and heart health, so you can at least adapt your lifestyle habits to combat vision loss and heart disease in one fell swoop. 

An Australian research team found that people with severe coronary artery disease (CAD) were more likely to develop AMD.

“Age-related macular degeneration and coronary artery disease share similar risk factors such as smoking, higher body mass, hypertension and genetic risk factors,” said study author and vision loss researcher Dr. Bamini Gopinath. 

Researchers are also beginning to explore the genetic and biological possibilities for the link between the two diseases. David P. Sendrowski, doctor of optometry and professor at the Marshall B. Ketchum University’s Southern College of Optometry in Fullerton said, “When the blood vessels are predisposed to being blocked, they start this inflammatory process.” The inflammatory process could contribute to AMD because the eye relies on healthy small blood vessels to work properly, Sendrowski stated. 

Fortunately (and we’ve covered them before but they bear repeating) there are some fairly straightforward ways to prevent or combat both CAD and AMD: 

  • Treat high blood pressure
  • Manage your cholesterol
  • Stop smoking (or don’t start, because why would you?)
  • Lose weight (or maintain a healthy weight if you’re already there)
  • Know your family history
  • Eat a healthy diet (you know—dark leafy green, fish, the usual)

However, Dr. Laurence Sperling of the Emory University School of Medicine also cautions, “Be sure that  both your cardiologist and your eye specialist know what regular medications you take, and any over-the-counter agents or even herbal or dietary supplements.” Medications to treat AMD and CAD and different and might interact. 

Additional heart-related eye conditions include cataracts, retinopathy, transient ischemic attacks and branch retinal vein occlusion, among others. 

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