These health problems can be predicted with a look into your eyes

These health problems can be predicted with a look into your eyes. More proof that the eyes reflect overall health just arrived in the form of a study adding a disease to the list of what can be predicted by examining “the windows to the soul.” Small changes in the blood vessels within our eyes at age 60 can foretell a significant loss of memory over the next couple of decades, suggests a study published Wednesday in the medical journal Neurology.

It’s well-known that diseases of the vascular, or circulatory, system increase the risk of cognitive impairment as we age. This system includes veins, arteries, blood vessels and capillaries that carry blood to and from the heart. “We cannot see the very small blood vessels in the brain through standard brain imaging techniques” like magnetic resonance imaging, said lead study author Jennifer A. Deal, an assistant scientist in the Department of Epidemiology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Because blood vessels in the eye and brain are similar, Deal and her fellow researchers hypothesized that looking at blood vessels in the eye might explain what was happening in the brain.

The study began with more than 12,000 men and women at an average age of 57 who were tested for their memory and thinking skills. The participants took another round of exams about six years later and a third round about 20 years after the initial test.
About three years after the study began, the researchers used a special camera to take photos of each participant’s retina, a layer of tissue at the back of the eyes through which light signals are converted to impulses that pass into the brain, enabling us to see.
Deal explained that these photos provided “a snapshot of what is going on in the microvasculature in the eye (and also, we think, the brain) at that point in time, and from that one measure, we can determine if someone has retinal signs indicative of retinopathy,” damage to the retinal blood vessels.