Feb 13 2017

February is heart health month.  You may not immediately think of your eyes when someone mentions heart health but the two are very much connected.  Many of the tips and suggestion both for what is good and bad for the heart can affect the eyes as well.  Let’s take a look at some of the more common ones.

First, smoking is bad for both.  The reason for this is that smoking damages the blood vessels. These vessels deliver oxygen and other nutrients both to the muscle of the heart and, the retina that delicate nerve tissue in the back of the eye that allows us to see.

Second, high cholesterol can increase the risk of heart attack.  This is because too much bad cholesterol can block the vessels and damage he muscle by cutting off blood flow.  This again can happen in the eye as well and is very similar to a stroke in the manner that it damages the nerve tissue of the retina.  In most cases this damage is irreversible.

Third, to keep both the eye and the heart healthy eat a very colorful diet.  This is because all the fruits and vegetables that contain all this color are high in nutrients that our heart needs to rebuild and repair itself over time.  These same pigments that give our food all this color are the building blocks for the retinal nerves responsible for giving us sight and your body is constantly rebuilding these pigment cells.

Fourth, get a good source of Omega 3.  This is the good fat found in most fish, it is a key nutrient for the heart.  It is used by the eyes in the production of tears.  Too little Omega 3 in your diet can lead to discomfort from dry eye, the gritty scratchy feeling you get, by decreasing the amount of tears on the surface of the eye.

Fifth, get up and move.  Moderate daily physical activity helps keep the heart healthy and helps maintain pulse and blood flow.  A good steady blood flow helps keep all the parts of the retina happy by bringing in nutrients and taking away by-products.  In diseases like macular degeneration changes in blood flow can allow an unhealthy buildup of these by-products and lead to damage of the nerve tissue of the retina.

So you can see that being heart healthy you can also keep yourself eye healthy.  One last good tip is to get an annual eye health checkup.  In many cases your optometrist by looking at the blood vessels inside the eye can spot changes that indicate diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.  This is one way in which being eye healthy can also keep you heart healthy.

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