Here’s something that may surprise you.
A healthy lifestyle that’s geared toward cardiovascular health can also save your eyesight.
We already know that there’s quite a bit of overlap between the risk factors for heart disease and eye disease.
You’re at higher risk of glaucoma, macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy if you smoke regularly or if you have high blood pressure or diabetes.
Now, a new study has found that an overall heart-healthy lifestyle that includes seven specific behaviors can not only save your heart, but it can also prevent eye diseases that can steal your vision.
7 lifestyle factors that determine your risk
At the Department of Public Health at Texas Tech University’s Health Sciences Center, researchers evaluated lifestyle data from 6,118 adults aged 40+ who were part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) between 2005 and 2008.
For the study, a healthy lifestyle was measured according to the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple Seven (LS7) protocol.
The LS7 assessment is based on an individual’s status in seven areas: not smoking, regular physical activity, healthy diet, maintaining a normal weight and controlling cholesterol, blood pressure and blood glucose levels.
The results of the study showed that practicing all these healthy lifestyle factors together lowered the odds of developing age-related macular degeneration (ARMD), diabetic retinopathy, cataracts and glaucoma.
In particular, people with optimal cardiovascular health as measured by the LS7 had 97 percent lower odds of having diabetic retinopathy, a complication from diabetes that damages the blood vessels of the retina. It is the most common cause of vision loss for people with diabetes.
Noah De La Cruz and Obadeh Shabaneh, co-authors of the study, note that, because of this eye-heart connection, early detection of eye diseases could help save lives.
They encourage “increased collaborations between cardiologists, optometrists, and ophthalmologists in order to better prevent cardiovascular and ocular diseases.”
Start protecting your heart AND your eyes now
Start by using My Life Check©, the American Heart Association’s interactive tool that lets you assess and keep track of your heart health.
It will highlight the areas that you could improve to strengthen your heart, as well as those where you’re already doing well.
Making improvements to your diet will help control several other risk factors as well (weight, blood pressure and blood sugar).
Look for fruits and other foods that have resveratrol, a polyphenol found in red wine and grapes, as well as in cranberries, peanuts, blueberries and dark chocolate.
Research has shown that, besides being good for your heart, resveratrol also helps support the blood vessels of the inner retina, and thus may help prevent ARMD.
You probably know that the Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best ways to keep your heart, your blood pressure, and your brain strong and healthy.
But calling it a “diet” is misleading. Think of Mediterranean eating as a food “style” that allows you to eat more, enjoy your food and live better.
Exercise, of course, needs to be part of any plan for heart health. Even with a family history of heart disease working against you, research shows that regular exercise will lower your risk of heart disease. And according to the Cleveland Clinic, it’s just as good for your eyes. The less you exercise, the higher your risks for cataracts and AMD.
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Healthy lifestyle for cardiovascular health promotes good eye health — Institute for Optimum Nutrition
The Association of Ideal Cardiovascular Health and Ocular Diseases Among US Adults — American Journal of Medicine
My Life Check | Life’s Simple 7 — American Heart Association
Discovery puts end of age-related macular degeneration in sight — Easy Health Options