What can an eye exam tell about my heart?

The American Heart Association reports since the start of the 20th century, cardiovascular disease or CVD, has been the number one killer in North America.  Cardiovascular disease includes high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart failure and stroke.  Almost 60% of all deaths each year are a result of CVD.  This number is greater than the next seven leading causes of death combined.  CVD results in 33% of all hospitalization expenditures.  In the United States alone this translates into a death every minute.  Between 50-60 million Americans ranging in age from 6 and older, have high blood pressure, and when left untreated high blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and eye disorders.

For centuries eyes have been seen as the window to the soul.  But medical researchers believe the eyes may also provide vital clues to your risk of heart disease and stroke.  Your eye doctor may be able to see the signs of high blood pressure and other cardiovascular and systemic diseases in your eyes before you ever experience symptoms.

The retina is one of the only organs in the body where blood vessels can be directly visualized.  Even in the early stages of high blood pressure it is possible for your eye doctor to observe changes in retinal blood vessels.  Changes that can be visualized include how the arteries and veins cross over one another, become narrowed, nicked, or even blocked.  Size and shape also give clinical clues to potential high blood pressure.  If blood vessels in the eye show plaque or appear blocked, blood vessels in the heart and/or in the brain may also be blocked.  These signs are major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

Just as the risks are similar, the prevention of eye disease is similar to prevention of heart disease.  When blood pressure and cholesterol are under control, the chances of eye disease decrease significantly.  Essentially, what is good for your heart is good for your eyes.  Early detection of heart and vascular disease can include visiting your eye doctor annually.

If you are interested in an eye health and vision exam or have questions for our doctors please contact our Stillwater office @ 405-372-1715 or Pawnee @ 918-762-2573. We also invite you to visit our website at www.cockrelleyecare.com and like us on Facebook at Cockrell Eye Care Center!

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