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Look into My Eyes—See My Heart Disease

POSTED ON December 20, 2011

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We’ve known for years that an eye exam is the window to the soul. An annual exam can help monitor for a buffet of diseases (diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, etc.), but more evidence has come out supporting the visible warning signs of heart disease seen in the eyes. The New York Times recently reported on a BMJ study in which Danish scientists examined whether the appearance of yellow patches, known as xanthelasma, could serve as indicators of cardiovascular disease. These ...

We’ve known for years that an eye exam is the window to the soul. An annual exam can help monitor for a buffet of diseases (diabetes, glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration, etc.), but more evidence has come out supporting the visible warning signs of heart disease seen in the eyes.

The New York Times recently reported on a BMJ study in which Danish scientists examined whether the appearance of yellow patches, known as xanthelasma, could serve as indicators of cardiovascular disease. These patches are attributed to higher levels of lipids (fats!) in the blood and tend to appear around the eyelids. Most people ignore the spots as simply a cosmetic issue.

As it turns out, researchers found that those who develop xanthelasma were more likely have a heart attack or die of heart disease regardless of other risk factors (such as weight or cholesterol levels). The study found that, “Overall, men who had xanthelasma had a 12 percent higher risk of heart disease, compared with those who did not, and women who developed the condition had an 8 percent rise in risk.”

Why does any of this matter? Well, along with the study, an editorial was published supporting the idea that those with no other overt signs of heart disease would benefit from an eye exam to identify risk of heart disease. Tell the ones you love to get checked out! Better to be proactive when it comes to our hearts.

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