THURSDAY, July 13, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Checking the width of blood vessels in the eyes may help identify middle-aged people at increased risk of dying from heart disease, according to a study in the current issue of Heart.
Researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia, used retinal photography to measure the diameter of the small arteries (arterioles) and small veins (venules) in more than 3,600 men and women over the age of 49. Arterioles and venules are branches of main arteries and veins, and their condition reflects the general state of smaller blood vessels throughout the body, the study authors noted.
During the nine-year study, 78 women and 114 men died from coronary heart disease. For those aged 49 to 75, the risk of death from coronary heart disease was doubled if they had wider eye venules.
Wider venules have been linked to several risk factors for coronary heart disease such as smoking, high cholesterol, obesity and systemic inflammation, the researchers said.
They also found that among women aged 49 to 75, narrower arterioles were associated with a 50 percent increased risk of death from coronary heart disease.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about coronary heart disease.