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Age-Related Macular Degeneration Doubles Heart Attack and Stroke Risk
Date:2/28/2008

Eye disease carries same risk as other circulatory problems, experts say.

THURSDAY, Feb. 28 (HealthDay News) -- People suffering from age-related macular degeneration (AMD) have twice the risk of dying from heart attack or stroke, Australian researchers report.

The degenerative eye disease is the most common cause of untreatable blindness among older adults in developed countries and affects the center of the retina at the back of the eye, which is essential for tasks such as reading and driving.

"We found a positive long-term link between AMD and subsequent cardiovascular and stroke mortality in a population of older Australians," said lead researcher Dr. Paul Mitchell, from the Centre for Vision Research in the Department of Ophthalmology at the University of Sydney. "This was particularly increased for late-blinding cases."

"Both ophthalmologists and general practitioners should be aware of this potential link and need to consider appropriate management of traditional vascular risk factors, such as smoking, blood pressure, blood lipids in their patients with AMD," Mitchell said.

In the study, Mitchell's team studied 3,654 people aged 49 years old and older. Five years later, 2,335 people were re-examined, and after 10 years, 1,952 were re-examined.

The report is published in the Feb. 28 online issue of the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

The researchers found that for people under 75, when the study began, early AMD was linked with a doubling of their risk of dying from heart attack or stroke over the next 10 years.

For those with late-stage AMD at the start of the study, their risk of dying from heart attack increased fivefold, and their risk of dying from stroke increased 10 times, Mitchell's team found.

"While AMD, particularly in its late stage, occurs in people of relatively older ages, it may be associated with an increased vascular risk," Mitchel
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