A new study has revealed that a person’s heart condition can be judged by studying the thickness of the veins and arteries in the eye.
For their study, researchers analysed the calibre of the vasculature of the retina in more than 3600 men and women over the age of 49.
This was done by looking at detailed photographs of the back of the eye, measuring the diameters of the small arteries (arterioles) and small veins (venules), and calculating their ratio, known as the AVR.
Arterioles and venules are small branches of main arteries and veins, and their condition reflects the general state of the smaller blood vessels in the body, they said.
The study was conducted over nine years, and 78 women (over four per cent) and 114 men (a little less than eight per cent) of the people surveyed, died from coronary heart disease.
The findings revealed that deaths from coronary heart disease doubled if the venules were wider.
Researchers said wider venules were indicators of several risk factors for coronary heart disease, including smoking, systemic inflammation, high total cholesterol and obesity.
In women in this age narrower arterioles were also associated with a 50 per cent increased risk of dying from coronary heart disease, they said.
The findings have been posted online prior to them being published in print in the journal Heart.
Researchers further suggest that retinal photography may be a useful non-invasive method of assessing this risk.