- Poor wellbeing and certain retinal structures indicate future heart-disease risk
- Males are most affected, due to female health being more hormone related
- Previous studies link wide retinal blood vessels with mental-health problems
- Wider vessels are a sign of reduced blood-flow regulation and inflammation
- More than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK have heart disease
Looking into teenagers’ eyes may reveal their future heart-disease risk, new research suggests.
Lead author Professor Bamini Gopinath, from The Westmead Institute for Medical Research, Australia, said: ‘Poor wellbeing and certain structural changes to the retina are both associated with an increased risk of future cardiovascular disease.
‘We found that adolescents – particularly males – with poorer health-related quality of life had wider arteriolar and narrower venular blood vessels in the retina.
‘These particular changes are possible indicators for future cardiovascular disease risk.’
Previous studies have found a link between wide retinal blood vessels and mental-health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.
Wider vessels are a sign of inflammation and reduced blood flow.
More than 1.6 million men and one million women in the UK have cardiovascular disease, which puts them at risk of heart attacks and stroke.
Looking into teenagers’ eyes may reveal their future heart-disease risk (stock)
COULD AN EYE PATCH IMPROVE SIGHT LOSS?
A pioneering eye patch improves vision in people with severe age-related sight loss, research suggested in April 2018.
When implanted at the back of the eye of people suffering from dry macular degeneration, all experienced improved or stabilised vision, a study found.
One woman, aged 69, was even able to read 24 letters on an eye chart after having the device fitted, compared to just seven before, the research adds.
The device involves placing a wafer-thin patch coated with healthy embryonic retinal cells on the tissue near the optic nerve, which sends impulses to the brain where images are formed.
Dry macular degeneration affects around 1.75 million people in the US alone and causes reduced central vision due to thinning of the part of the retina responsible for people’s direct line of sight.
The researchers, from the University of Southern California, placed the patch, measuring 6x4mm, on the retinas of four people with advanced dry macular degeneration.
Each of the participants only had one eye tested, while the other served as a control.
One year on, the patch stabilised the disease in all of the participants’ treated eyes, while those that had not received the patch continued to deteriorate.
Two of the participants were better able to maintain their vision on a single object a year after the implant was fitted.
The researchers believe their findings suggest the patch improves the vision of people with severe age-related dry macular degeneration, at least in the short term.
They plan to conduct a larger trial that tests the device on patients at an earlier stage of the disease.
Poor health is linked to wider retinal blood vessels
Results further suggest that for every one point increase in a person’s health-related quality-of-life, their retinal blood vessels narrow by around 0.00005mm.
Health-related quality of life refers to the impact someone’s wellbeing has on their comfort and happiness.
Those with the lowest health-related quality of life have significantly wider retinal blood vessels than those with the best.
The effects are greater in males, which may be due to female’s health-related quality of life being more influenced by hormones than cardiovascular factors.
How the research was carried out
The researchers analysed 1,600 students aged 11-to-19 years old between 2009 and 2011.
The health of their retinal vessels were measured via digital images.
Retinas offer a non-invasive way of assessing circulation.
The participants completed a questionnaire that determined their health-related quality of life.
It included questions relating to their physical and mental wellbeing.
Breastfeeding reduces women’s risk of heart disease for up to 15 years
This comes after research released last February suggested breastfeeding reduces women’s risk of heart disease for up to 15 years.
Among women who had healthy blood pressures during their pregnancies, breastfeeding for six months or longer significantly increases their so-called ‘good cholesterol’ levels, as well as lowering their amounts of circulating fat, a study found.
Feeding naturally also reduces the thickness of the carotid artery, the research adds.
This supplies the head and neck with oxygen-rich blood, with wider diameters being associated with stroke.
Lead author Dr Malamo Countouris, from the University of Pittsburgh, said: ‘The study adds to the evidence that lactation is important not just for the baby but for the mother.
‘Breastfeeding seems to be cardioprotective in these women, as evidenced by improved cholesterol and markers of subclinical cardiovascular disease.’
According to the researchers, breastfeeding stimulates the release of the hormone oxytocin, which may play a role in lowering blood pressure.