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Retinal Vasculature Can Predict Heart Disease Death

Study of middle-aged patients finds association between wider venules and heart disease mortality

THURSDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- In middle-aged patients, the caliber of the small arteries and veins of the eye may predict the risk of dying from coronary heart disease, especially in women, according to a study published online July 13 in Heart.

During the nine-year study, Jie Jin Wang, M.D., of the University of Sydney in Australia, and colleagues studied the eyes of 3,654 Australians over age 49, measuring the diameters of the arterioles and venules and calculating their ratio (AVR).

The researchers found that 78 women (4.1 percent) and 114 men (7.8 percent) died from coronary heart disease. Among subjects aged 49 to 75, they found that wider venules were associated with coronary heart disease-related death. Each standard deviation increase in venular caliber was associated with a relative risk of 1.8 in men and 2.0 in women. Among women aged 49 to 75 years, they also found that smaller AVR and narrower arterioles were associated with coronary heart disease-related death (relative risk 1.5). They did not observe these associations in subjects over age 75.

"These findings suggest that microvascular disease processes may have a role in coronary heart disease development in middle-aged people, particularly in women," the authors conclude. "Retinal photography may be useful in cardiovascular risk prediction."

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