Cardiovascular disease risk factors are more common in visually impaired adults

According to new evidence, cardiovascular diseases and their risk factors are more common in patients with visual impairment than in the general population.

In a nationwide representative cross-sectional assessment of the annual health survey data, a team of researchers from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a remarkable association between cardiovascular disease and visual impairment.

The research, presented this weekend at the Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) 2021 Virtual Sessions, also provided unambiguous Associated Prevalence Rates (aPR) for numerous risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which occur in patients with eye diseases, including Alcohol and smoking habits, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Led by Elizabeth Lundeen, PhD, MPH, of the Department of Diabetes Translation at the CDC, researchers sought to better describe the association between visual impairment and cardiovascular risk factors in adults in the United States. As they found, the matter is less defined than the current understanding that visual impairment is linked to heart and metabolic disorders.

They used self-reported data from non-institutionalized U.S. civilians included in the 2018 National Health Interview Survey. Their data included 23,071 adults ≥ 18 years of age with data on cardiovascular disease, risk factors and visual impairment – the latter were defined as visual difficulties regardless of the use of glasses or contact lenses.

The prevalence of cardiovascular disease has been described in terms of the patient’s visual impairment status and defined by various events or conditions: coronary artery disease, angina pectoris, myocardial infarction, stroke or other diseases.

Lundeen and colleagues created aPRs using generalized linear regression models that included the Poisson distribution and logarithmic links for the following cardiovascular risk factors observed in patients with visual impairment: current smoking, physical activity, excessive alcohol consumption, obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes .

Their models were controlled for various demographics such as the patient’s age, gender, race / ethnicity, education, marital status, employment, income, and health insurance.

The average age of the participants was 47.3 years, 51.6% were female. Only 12.9% of the participants had a visual impairment. Raw cardiovascular disease occurred in more than a quarter (26.6%; 95% CI, 24.6-28.5) of the participants with visual impairment, compared to only 12.1% (95% CI, 11.6 – 12.7) for participants without (aPR, 1.64; 95% CI, 1.48 – 1.76).

Visually impaired participants reported a higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors for each of the 7 observed factors, as follows:

  • Current smoking (aPR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.24-1.48)
  • Physical inactivity (aPR, 1.13; 95% CI, 1.05-1.20)
  • Excessive alcohol consumption (aPR, 1.29; 95% CI, 1.08-1.54)
  • Obesity (aPR, 1.26; 95% CI, 1.19-1.34)
  • Hypertension (aPR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.18-1.31)
  • High cholesterol (aPR, 1.17; 95% CI, 1.11-1.24)
  • Diabetes (aPR, 1.46; 95% CI, 1.32-1.63)

Lundeen and colleagues concluded that visually impaired adults are more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and its risk factors than adults without visual impairment.

“Reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease in adults with visual impairment requires effective clinical and lifestyle interventions that are adapted to visual impairment-related disabilities and that aid in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease,” they write.

The study “Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease in Adults with Visual Impairment in the United States” was presented at ARVO 2021.

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