Dedicated to Improving the Lives of Blind and Visually Impaired People

February is American Heart Month: Heart Health and the Eyes

February marks the commemoration of American Heart Month, a time to focus on cardiovascular health by adopting healthy habits in diet, exercise, and managing cholesterol and blood pressure. It also serves to remind us of the connection between the eyes and heart disease. An article from UChicago Medicine asks What can your eyes tell you about heart disease?, affirming that “The eyes do more than allow us to see; they have something to say.” A comprehensive eye exam can reveal problems with the heart and blood vessels and signal a need for early treatment, often prior to any discernable symptoms. The condition of blood vessels in the retina in the back of the eye is related to the health of the heart. An eye specialist examining the blood vessels in the eye can detect signs of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease,  or cardiovascular risk factors. Long-term high blood pressure can cause fluid build up under the retina, resulting in distorted vision or scarring that damages vision, as well as damage to the optic nerve from blocked blood flow that can bring on temporary or permanent vision loss. In addition to potential damage to the eye’s anatomy, high blood pressure can cause a stroke, which can harm the optic nerve, the area of the brain responsible for processing images. Read more from the American Heart Association about How High Blood Pressure Can Lead to Vision Loss. For additional details about the monthly commemoration, check the listing from National Today for American Heart Month. Resources for health care professionals and individuals, such as best practice guides, messages, journal articles, quizzes, videos, and other materials, are available from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) American Heart Month Toolkits 2023. This month the CDC’s Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention is expanding the Million Hearts® and CDC Foundation’s “Live to the Beat” campaign.  The initiative reaches out to “Black adults ages 35 to 54” to take steps to reduce their risks for cardiovascular disease (CVD). CVD has increased in working-age adults, with Black adults in the U.S. “bearing the highest burden of CVD and the related health consequences.”