February is the month of love, but it is also Heart Health Month. I know you are thinking, “What does my heart health have to do with my eye health?” It is often said that the eyes are the windows of the soul. This is a more profound statement because did you know your eyes may offer a view into your overall health. A comprehensive eye exam is a secret weapon from your eye doctor to see evidence of both eye and heart disease.
The eyes can be the first window of your overall health for certain diseases, whether it be cardiovascular, hypertension, or other heart diseases. The eyes are not separated from the rest of the body and are unique in that it is one of the only areas where our blood vessels can directly be seen.
Who is most at risk for developing heart disease?
According to the American Heart Association, 1 in 3 women have some form of cardiovascular disease, and about 116.4 million, or 46% of US adults, are estimated to have hypertension.
What is Hypertension?
Hypertension is a prevalent cardiovascular disease, which can have repercussions throughout the body, including the eye. In general, hypertension can predispose you to have various eye problems. It may be as minimal as changes in retinal vessels’ appearances that can indicate high blood pressure and patients who may not know that they have high blood pressure.
Heart Disease linked to eye health
According to the American Academy of Ophthalmology, research shows a possible link between having heart disease and having a greater risk of vision loss from AMD.
Healthy Living and Adopting Healthy Habits
Show your eyes and heart some love! Incorporate the following steps into your lifestyle to keep your heart and eyes healthy.
- Break the cigarette and stop smoking – Smokers are at greater risk for cardiovascular disease, stroke, and AMD.
- Have fun and exercise – Excess weight could increase your risk for AMD, as well as contribute to heart disease. Exercise can reduce your risk.
- Know your family’s health history – Knowing that your mother has heart disease or your grandfather has diabetes can help you make the right choices to keep your heart and eyes healthy.
- Eat great foods for your heart and eye health – The same foods that are good for your heart can help you preserve your eye health. Leafy greens (spinach, kale, and collards) and cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, and sardines, are good for healthy eyes and better heart health.
- Don’t skip your doctor appointments – Make sure to have regular exams with your eye doctor and your primary care doctor. Monitoring your health is the best “Self Valentine Love” for your body.
Be good to your heart, and your eye health will follow.