Yep, Theres a Link Between Your Heart and Eye Health – MSN Money

  • According to new research in the American Journal of Medicine, keeping your heart healthy may keep your eyes healthy, too.
  • Eating nutritious foods and getting enough exercise can prevent ocular issues such as age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, diabetic retinopathy, and glaucoma.

    Keeping your cardiovascular system strong with running and other exercise can help lower heart risks and prevent strokes. And new research suggests there’s another benefit you might see—literally.

    A study in the American Journal of Medicine finds that good heart health is associated with your eye health, which is important for runners when it comes to focusing while out on the roads and trails.

    Researchers looked at data from more than 6,000 adults older than 40 years old who took part in a three-year study on health and nutrition. Participants provided information on their diet, blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, smoking habits, body mass index, and physical activity.

    Researchers found that having even just one of these negatively impact your health was associated with a higher risk of ocular and cardiovascular issues. As the number of factors increased, so did the risk level, leading researchers to conclude that interventions aimed at preventing cardiovascular disease could have the seemingly unintended—but positive!—effect of improving your eye health as well.

    Previous research has established associations between eye conditions and other lifestyle and health factors, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and smoking, lead investigator Duke Appiah, Ph.D., assistant professor at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, Runner’s World

    Addressing these types of issues and promoting healthy behaviors like exercise and good nutrition can not only lower risk of chronic disease, he said, but also prevent the type of ocular issues that are often not caught in the early stages. Those include age-related macular degeneration (when the central part of your retina, called the macula, wears down), cataracts (when the normally clear lens of your eye becomes cloudy), diabetic retinopathy (changes to the blood vessels in the retina), and glaucoma (damage to the optic nerve).

    About 2.2 billion people worldwide suffer from ocular diseases, the study noted, and it’s estimated that about half of these cases could have been prevented with lifestyle changes.

    In addition to not smoking—a big one when it comes to both heart health and your vision—other strategies include maintaining normal weight, controlling your blood sugar levels, and keeping your cholesterol at the right level.

    Appiah added that the hope is optometrists and ophthalmologists will consider these findings and talk to their patients about cardiovascular health, and that cardiologists will address eye health. For individuals, he hopes that the takeaway message is to focus on healthy habits that are good for the heart, since the eyes will benefit, too.

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    Elizabeth Millard is a freelance writer focusing on health, wellness, fitness, and food. 

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