Heart Disease Linked to Macular Degeneration

Patients suffering from macular degeneration have an increased risk of heart disease according to research published online in Ophthalmology.  While macular degeneration was related to a an increased risk of heart disease, there was no increased risk of stroke.

Researchers used a large prospective study and examined people with the eye disease macular degeneration and found there was a 50 percent greater risk of heart disease than those with it.  In examining the available data, it was shown that there was no increased risk associated with macular degeneration and stroke.

“This provides further support that age-related macular degeneration is associated with underlying systemic vascular disease,” researchers said.  They noted that evidence suggesting that the eye disease and heart disease share common mechanisms is increasing.

During the study, researchers examined 1,786 patients without heart disease and 2,228 patietns with stroke as a baseline.  All patients were between the ages of 69 and 97, and had been enrolled in the Cardiovascular Heart Study.  Macular degeneration was evaluated using photographs taken at the time of examination.

Of those patients free of heart disease, 303 developed the disease, while 198 of those free of stroke developed the disease.  Early macular degeneration was hown to occur more in those patients with heart disease than those without.  The association of heart disease with macular degeneration was shown even when things such as age, gender, race, blood pressure and smoking were accounted for in the study.

However, late macular degeneration was not associated with heart disease.  Both early macular degeneration and late macular degeneration were not associated with stroke.

Researchers also discovered the associated between macular degeneration and heart disease was stronger in younger patients.  Those people between 69 and 78 years of age had and 80 percent higher risk for heart disease than those without the eye disease.  The risk was only 45 percent for those patients from 79 to 97.

The researhers indicated that their findings were consistent with other literature indicating the association between heart disease and macular degeneration.  “Our findings,” they concluded, “may have broader implications of cardiovascular safety for the many patients with age-related macular degeneration who are treated with long-term antivascular endothelial growth factor therapy.”

With the risk of heart disease increasing when a person suffers from macular degeneration, proper eye health is important.

Primary source: Ophthalmology
Source reference:
Sun C, et al “Age-related macular degeneration and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: The Cardiovascular Health Study” Ophthalmol 2009; DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2009.03.046.