How Does Vascular Health Play a Role in How Well We Can See?
When thinking about your health, it is important to remember that your body is a network. A problem in one part of the body is most likely not an isolated issue, but rather systemic. For example, issues related to vascular health, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease, can all affect the eyes. Therefore, the best way to care for your vision may begin with keeping a healthy heart and lifestyle.
High Blood Pressure & Your Vision
High blood pressure occurs when the force of blood against the artery walls becomes so elevated that the arteries begin to stretch, narrow, and become damaged. Eventually, this damage can reach the blood vessels supplying blood to the retina. Also known as hypertension retinopathy, damage caused by high blood pressure can result in bleeding in the eye, blurred vision, swelling, and blood clots. In more extreme cases, hypertension retinopathy can cause nerve damage or even a stroke in the retina, resulting in a complete loss of vision.
Getting consistent exams can significantly reduce the risk of developing hypertension retinopathy. During an exam, a specialist can examine the blood vessels and notice whether the arteries have become restricted. In fact, some do not realize they have high blood pressure until they visit their specialist. In addition to regular eye exams, maintaining/preventing high blood pressure can also keep your eyes healthy. If you have high blood pressure or are worried about developing hypertension, you may want to consider:
- Adopting a healthy diet (low on salt, bread, cheese, and processed foods)
- Maintaining stress relief practices
- Reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption
Heart Disease & Eye Health
While there are several kinds of heart disease, the most common is coronary artery disease, which is caused by a buildup of plaque in the walls of the arteries that supply blood to the heart, and other parts of the body, such as the eyes. When the blood flow to the eye becomes blocked, the eye’s supply of nutrients and oxygen is compromised, which interrupts proper functions. Indications of what is known as a retinal artery occlusion, or sometimes referred to as eye stroke, include floaters in your field of vision and pain and pressure in your eye. If you are experiencing these symptoms, make sure to see a specialist immediately. If left untreated, vision loss is possible. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease, make sure to speak with your doctor about receiving regular eye exams and monitoring your eye health.
Similar to high blood pressure, excess sugar in the bloodstream can reduce the elasticity of the blood vessels and cause them to narrow and restrict blood flow. When this damage occurs to the retina's blood vessels, it is known as diabetic retinopathy. At first, many do not develop symptoms. However, as the disease progresses, patients may develop:
- Blurred vision
- Dark or empty areas in your vision
- Vision loss
To avoid vision loss, make sure to not only manage your diabetes but also check in with a specialist about your eye health. Regular eye examinations are key to preventing serious damage. If you have diabetes and your vision becomes blurred, or you notice other symptoms, make sure to speak to your doctor right away.
Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle
If anything has become evident, it is that our organs cannot function without proper blood flow. Maintaining your vascular health is integral to keeping the rest of your body, including your eyes, healthy as well. Practices to help you maintain your vascular healthy include:
- Maintaining low cholesterol through diet and exercise
- Avoid smoking
- Controlling blood sugar levels
If you’d like to learn more about your eyes in relation to your vascular health, do not hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment today.