A new study has found yet another potential cause of heart ailments – persons with damage in small blood vessels of the retina and kidneys are at increased risk to develop the most common type of abnormal heart rhythm, it warns.
Such damage to minor blood vessels is known as atrial fibrillation. It raises the risk of stroke and causes heart-related chest pain or heart failure in some people, the research shows.
Researchers in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study (ARIC) followed 10,009 middle-aged people for an average 13.6 years.
The findings showed that atrial fibrillation developed at a rate of 5.7 incidents per 1,000 person-years in those with no retina or kidney changes. On the other hand, there were 8.9 incidents per 1,000 person-years in those with signs of small vessel damage in the retina, such as micro-bleeds or micro-aneurysms.
There were 16.8 incidents per 1,000 person-years in those with signs of vessel damage in the kidneys, allowing tiny amounts of protein to be released into their urine (micro-albuminuria) and 24.4 incidents per 1,000 person-years in those with both retinopathy and micro-albuminuria.
Though reasons for the association are unclear, changes in other vascular beds may serve as a representation of coronary micro-vascular changes and the observed association may be mediated through inflammation, endothelial dysfunction, autonomic dysfunction, and electro-mechanical remodelling, the researchers said.
The research was presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2013 in Dallas.