According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), cardiovascular disease accounts for nearly 800,000 American deaths per year. Many of these would be preventable with early detection. One component of early detection is an eye examination.
An eye examination is the only non-invasive means by which a physician can actually see your blood vessels. A cardiologist, a neurologist, or kidney specialist can go through their entire career and never actually see the blood vessels of the heart, brain, or kidney that factor so prominently in the diseases they treat.
This is especially important when it comes to hypertension, or high blood pressure. In the early stages, high blood pressure has no symptoms. Untreated hypertension has been explained to patients as a “ticking bomb” to their health, often first declaring itself with a catastrophic heart attack or stroke.
Chronically high blood pressure changes the appearance of the retinal blood vessels in characteristic ways. These changes are apparent during an eye examination. Doctors understand that if these changes are seen in the retina, they also would exist throughout the body, with special concern in the heart, brain, and kidneys.
Given this, it’s no surprise that uncontrolled high blood pressure (hypertension) is a leading risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Yet, one in five people with the condition are not even aware that they have it.1 In fact, research shows that many people first learn of their risk for hypertension, not from their cardiologist, but from their eye doctor.
One study from 2015 found that, in one optometric practice alone, 21 percent of patients tested were found to have high blood pressure.2 Of these, 66.7 percent had no idea they had elevated levels.
Given the connection between hypertension and both heart attack and stroke, this is early detection at its best.
Don’t let the hypertension sneak up on you. Schedule your annual eye exam today and protect your vision AND your health.
- Mozzafarian D, et al. Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics-2015 Update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2015;e29-322.
- AlAnazi SA, et al. Effectiveness of in-office blood pressure measurement by eye care practitioners in early detection and management of hypertension. Int J Ophthalmol. 2015;8(3):612-21.