Researchers at the Centre for Eye Research Australia (CERA) have discovered a link between age-related macular degeneration (AMD) and an increased risk of heart disease that could lead to early diagnosis and more effective treatment.
The study, published in Ophthalmology, found that people with early AMD are almost 60 per cent more likely to develop coronary heart disease than those without the disease.
Principal Investigator Professor Tien Wong said that while scientists have long thought AMD to be associated with cardiovascular disease, this study is the first to establish a consistent link between AMD and coronary heart disease.
“We don’t fully understand the causes of AMD however increasing evidence suggests the disease shares similar genetic and environmental risk factors with cardiovascular disease. Smoking, a diet high in fat and hypertension are all risk factors of both AMD and heart disease and the two share common genetic variants,” Professor Wong said.
The findings suggest that common treatments for cardiovascular disease, such as cholesterol lowering medication, may be useful for AMD prevention. Researchers monitored 1786 people between the ages of 69 to 97 years who were free of coronary heart disease over a seven year period. Of those who had early AMD, almost 26 per cent developed heart disease, compared to only 18.9 per cent of those without AMD.
AMD has also been linked to a reduced life span due to its association with heart disease.