People with cardiovascular disease may be at a higher risk of developing certain eye diseases including macular degeneration, retinopathy, retinal bleeding, a retinal vein occlusion, and blurred vision.
Why is heart disease linked to eye disease?
Good vision requires, among other factors, adequate blood circulation, and normal blood pressure. The eyes have a network of tiny blood vessels, each no wider than a strand of hair, which supply blood to the retina, the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eyeball.
Poor circulation and obstacles to circulation such as blockages and plaque reduce the flow of nutrients to the retina reducing protection from free radicals and oxidative stress. High blood pressure damages the blood supply causing bleeding, blurred vision, swelling, blot clots, and nerve damage.
Eye changes signal risk to the cardiovascular system.
Researchers report that subtle, early damage to tiny blood vessels in the eyes may predict cardiovascular disease as well as atherosclerosis, high cholesterol, diabetes, hypertension, arthritis, even multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s disease. Sudden vision changes such as blurriness, dark areas, or shadows could be a blockage in an eye blood vessel, which can foreshadow a more serious stroke in the brain.
Nutritional Support for Vision and Cardiovascular System
This week we focus on several nutrient groups that are particularly valuable for the vision-cardiovascular link.
In a small pilot study, microvascular circulation was improved in heart failure patients who received whey protein supplements for 12 weeks. The improvement was reflected in improved microvascular vasodilation, (allows fine capillaries to relax) in turn supporting better circulation.1
A bonus is that whey protein supports glutathione levels, one of the most important antioxidants for vision health.2
Whey protein has long been recognized as beneficial for the elderly heart with respect to exercise such as resistance training. It is helpful in reducing blood pressure in overweight individuals3
Whey protein supports whole-body metabolism and recovery from exercise, 4 as well as increases muscle and body mass.
It may help treat type 2 diabetes5 and lower cholesterol.6 A key finding is that whey protein reduces C-reactive protein which is a significant marker of inflammation – possibly the primary cause (at the cellular level) of all diseases.7
Like whey protein, the B vitamins help protect the vision-vascular system link.
Folic acid (B9), B6, and B12
In people with cardiovascular disease, researchers found that folic acid, B6, and B12 combined could reduce the risk of AMD.8
According to a 2021 meta-analysis (an analysis of many studies) this trio reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, and vascular death in stroke patients.9
Similarly, a recent meta-analysis that reviewed research over the past several decades reported that B vitamin supplementation reduces homocysteine levels10 (strongly correlated to heart disease and stroke).
Extensive research in the 1980-90s found that deficiency of these B vitamins is linked to mental deterioration with loss of cognitive capacity, risk of dementia, and even psychiatric disturbances.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is common with older age, occurring in more than 20% of persons 65 years and older,11 and as a result can result in an increase in the prevalence of gastritis and other digestive conditions that interfere with absorption.
Other B vitamins
Niacin (B3) deficiency is a known cause of pellagra, a disease characterized by symptoms of dementia, diarrhea, and dermatitis that can be resolved through niacin supplementation.12 Symptoms can include symptoms of psychosis, including disorientation, memory loss, and confusion.
Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome is a degenerative brain disorder is caused by thiamine (vitamin B1) deficiency due to alcoholism, eating disorders, chemotherapy, etc. This syndrome involves damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems, causing problems with vision and muscle coordination.13
Keep Your Heart and Vision Health Naturally
- Exercise regularly.
- Eat a healthy diet. See more information on diet guidance including juicing recipes, lifestyle tips, and an activity guide.
- Take targeted supplements to support heart and eye health such as resveratrol, quercetin, lutein, zeaxanthin, bilberry, ginkgo biloba, nattokinase, vitamin D3, B vitamins, omega-3 fatty acids, ubiquinol (coenzyme Q10), garlic, ginseng, and grapeseed extract.
- De Lorenzo A, Dos Santos EM, Moreira ASB, Huguenin GVB, Tibirica E. (2021). Dietary supplementation with whey protein improves systemic microvascular function in heart failure patients: a pilot study. Braz J Med Biol Res. Apr 19;54(6):e10577.
- Bumrungpert A, Pavadhgul P, Nunthanawanich P, Sirikanchanarod A, Adulbhan A. (2018). Whey Protein Supplementation Improves Nutritional Status, Glutathione Levels, and Immune Function in Cancer Patients: A Randomized, Double-Blind Controlled Trial. J Med Food. Jun;21(6):612-616.
- Pal S, Ellis V. (2010). The chronic effects of whey proteins on blood pressure, vascular function, and inflammatory markers in overweight individuals. Obesity. Jul:18(7):1354-1359.
- West DWD, Sawan SA, Mazzulla M, Williamson E, Moore DR. (2017). Whey Protein Supplementation Enhances Whole Body Protein Metabolism and Performance Recovery after Resistance Exercise: A Double-Blind Crossover Study. Nutrients. 2017 Jul; 9(7): 735.
- Mortensen LS, Holmer-Jensen J, Hartvigsen ML, Jensen VK, Astrup A, et al. (2012). Effects of different fractions of whey protein on postprandial lipid and hormone responses in type 2 diabetes. Eur J Clin Nutr 2012 Jul;66(7):799-805.
- Zhang JW, Tong X, Wan Z, Wang Y, Qin LQ, et al. (2016). Effect of whey protein on blood lipid profiles: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Eur J Clin Nutr 2016 Aug;70(8):879-85.
- Shagoury K. (2017). Inflammation could be the cause of all disease, researcher says. Retrieved 14 Dec 2021
- Christen WG, Glynn RJ, Chew EY, Albert CM, Manson JE. (2009). Folic Acid, Vitamin B6, and Vitamin B12 in Combination and Age-related Macular Degeneration in a Randomized Trial of Women. Arch Intern Med, Feb 23;169(4):335-41.
- Kataria N, Yadav P, Kumar R, Kumar N, Singh M, et al. (2021). Effect of Vitamin B6, B9, and B12 Supplementation on Homocysteine Level and Cardiovascular Outcomes in Stroke Patients: A Meta-Analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Cureus. May 11;13(5):e14958.
- Marti-Carvajal AJ, Sola I, Lathyris D, Dayer M. (2017). Homocysteine-lowering interventions for preventing cardiovascular events. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. Aug 17;8(8):CD006612.
- Morris MS, Jacques PF, Rosenberg IH, Selhub. (2002). Elevated serum methylmalonic acid concentrations are common among elderly Americans. J J Nutr. Sep; 132(9):2799-803.
- Pellagra: dermatitis, dementia, and diarrhea. Hegyi J, Schwartz RA, Hegyi V Int J Dermatol. 2004 Jan; 43(1):1-5.
- NIH. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome Information Page. Retrieved 14 Dec 2021.
Make your appointment today
Due to COVID-19 safety protocols, all eyewear services are currently by appointment only. Please call to make an appointment.
At Golden Eye Optometry, we view good vision care as front line protection at every age. A routine eye exam can detect more than poor vision. It can shed early light on glaucoma, macular degeneration, cataracts and diabetes.