Age related macular degeneration (AMD) doubles the risk of dying from a heart attack, according to research released on February 28, 2008 in the British Journal of Opthamology.

AMD is a progressive eye diseases which affects the center of the retina, known as the macula, at the back of the eye. This portion of the eye is most specialized for fine, central vision tasks, including reading or driving. It is most common among the elderly, and in developed countries it is a major cause of untreatable blindless.

An Australian team of researchers at the University of Sydney analyzed over 3600 people aged 49 years or more between 1992 and 1994. Five years later, a follow up was performed on 2335 of these people; after ten years, 1952 were examined again. The analysis included physical examinations and photographs of the retina itself — the causes of death of participants during the study was also noted based on the national register.

Of the population under age 75 who participated in the study, early presentation of AMD was linked to a double in the risk of death from heart attack or stroke within a decade. The late stage disease was associated with a five fold increase in death from heart attack and ten time the risk of death from stroke.

As there are some concerns that current treatments for AMD could elevate stroke risk, these results have extremely important implications for the treatment of this disease in the elderly.

Age-related macular degeneration and mortality from cardiovascular disease or stroke
Jennifer S Tan, Jie Jin Wang, Gerald Liew, Elena Rochtchina and Paul Mitchell
Br J Ophthalmol 2008
doi: 10.1136/bjo.2007.131706
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Written by Anna Sophia McKenney