Looking into heart disease

Changes inside the eye can reflect the damage of high blood pressure and help gauge the risk of a future stroke or heart attack.

Over a romantic candlelit dinner, the eyes may be the windows to the soul. In a more prosaic light, they're windows to the heart, or at least mirrors of the health of your heart and blood vessels.

The retina is the light-sensitive tissue that lines the back of the inside of the eye. Changes there offer a visible early warning that high blood pressure is damaging blood vessels throughout the body. These changes in the eye, collectively called hypertensive retinopathy, have been linked with increased chances of having a stroke or heart attack, developing heart failure, or dying from cardiovascular disease. In people with diabetes, they herald possible vision loss.

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