Each year, the Heart Foundation declares February as National Heart Month. During this time, awareness of a variety of heart conditions are bought to the fore. Many of us have heard of diseases relating to the heart and circulation and we refer to these as cardiovascular diseases (CVD) or heart disease. However, there are many different types of heart conditions and problems. Some examples of CVD and heart disease include angina, heart attack, heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia) coronary heart disease and atrial fibrillation. Heart disease is one of the UK’s and the world’s biggest killers, according to the World Health Organization.
The Heart Foundation encourage us to reduce our risk factors for heart disease – and a fact you may not know is that following their advice can help your eye health too.
There are multiple aspects that may increase your risk of developing CVD. These range from modifiable risk factors including obesity, stress and high cholesterol to non modifiable factors including ethnicity and family history. The good news is that many heart and circulatory diseases are caused by risk factors that we can control, treat, and improve ourselves. Even better – modifying these risk factors could also benefit your eye health as a bonus.
The Heart Foundation suggests that the three easiest areas for you to make a change are:
Smoking: Smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people who have never smoked.
Studies show smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, diabetic eye disease and dry eye Syndrome. One way to reduce the risk of developing AMD is by NOT smoking. Smokers are three to four times more likely to develop AMD than non-smokers.
Obesity: Being overweight can have a big impact on your health, especially if you carry weight around your middle.
Obesity has been linked with age-related cataract, glaucoma, age-related maculopathy, and diabetic eye disease.
Physical inactivity: The heart is a muscle, and like any other muscle it needs physical activity to help it work properly.
In people who have glaucoma, regular exercise can lower intraocular pressure and improve blood flow to the retina and optic nerve. Physical activity can also help people with diabetes keep their disease under control reducing the risk of diabetic eye disease.
Love your heart and your eyes in February by finding more information on heart health at the British Heart Foundation website here.