Addressing Frequent Cardiovascular Risk Factors in Visually Impaired Patients


CDC data suggest ophthalmic patients are significantly more likely to present with a heart disease-driving condition or habit. How could preventive care improve?

Research presented this week at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 Virtual Sessions showed that patients with visual impairment are notably more likely to present with cardiovascular disease and risk factors for it than the general population.

In new data from US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) investigators, presented by Elizabeth Lundeen, PhD, MPH, of the Division of Diabetes Translation at the CDC, patients with visual impairment who participated in a 2018 national health survey showed greater likelihood for more than a half-dozen risk factors associated with cardiovascular disease and major adverse cardiovascular events.

Among the most prevalent findings included a 46% greater likelihood of diabetes in visually-impaired persons versus the general population (associated prevalence ratio [aPR], 1.46; 95% CI, 1.32 - 1.63), and 36% greater likelihood of smoking status (aPR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.24 - 1.48).

In an interview with HCPLive during ARVO 2021, Lundeen discussed how the observed risk factors—which additionally included obesity and hypertension, among others—closely overlap between cardiovascular disease and age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in the US.

“There’s just a strong correlation between cardiovascular health and vision health,” she explained.

Lundeen also discussed how the findings, which only cement the linkage between health- and lifestlye-related cardiovascular risk factors and worsened vision health, could provide guidance for experts to be “creative” with their chronic disease-preventive solutions.

“I think there are opportunities to better integrate vision screening and attention to vision health within routine clinical care—whether it’s from a general practitioner, an endocrinologist, a cardiologist,” she said. “As well, there are opportunities to integrate chronic disease prevention into rehabilitative vision services.”

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