Discover the Hidden Clue in Your Eyes That May Signify An Increased Risk of Premature Mortality

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A swift, hassle-free eyeball scan might soon let doctors spot ‘fast agers’—folks with a higher risk of dying early.

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Age impacts everyone’s physique, but the same age doesn’t guarantee an equal physical decline pace for two individuals.

Peering into someone’s eyes could be a much sharper method to gauge actual biological age, offering a peek at potential future health status.

In 2022, scientists showed off a machine learning system trained to estimate life expectancy by analyzing the retina, located at the eye’s rear.

So precise, this algorithm could peg the age of about 47,000 middle-aged and old folks in the UK within a 3.5-year margin.

Some decade-plus post retina scans, 1,871 subjects had passed away, and those with retinas appearing older tended to be in this lot.

Say the system pegged a person’s retina age a year older than their real age, their odds of dying from any cause in the forthcoming 11 years rose by 2 percent. Simultaneously, death risk from non-heart disease/cancer causes jumped 3 percent.

These findings are observational, hence the biological drivers behind this connection are still a mystery.

Yet, these results reinforce the growing notion that the retina is quite vulnerable to aging’s tolls. Hosting both nerves and blood vessels, it might reflect key info on someone’s vascular and neurological condition.

Past studies hinted that eye rear cells might forecast cardiovascular and kidney diseases and other aging indicators. But this study posits the ‘retinal age gap’ as a top mortality predictor.

“The significant link between the retinal age gap and non-heart/non-cancer deaths, plus the evidence tying eye to brain, may bolster the idea that the retina is a ‘window’ to neurological conditions,” the study’s authors penned.

A scant 20 study participants died from dementia, leaving the authors unable to connect this brain ailment to retinal health directly.

They also noted that deaths from heart-related issues have dropped lately, as medicine wards off many once-lethal events.

So, retinal health might still be a key heart health indicator, even if it didn’t correlate to heart death stats.

For example, past research showed retinal photos can flag heart risk factors.

“This research suggests the retina plays a vital part in aging and is sensitive to aging’s accumulated damages, upping mortality risk,” the authors summarized.

Other biological age predictors, like neuroimaging, DNA methylation, and transcriptome aging clocks, don’t match the retinal age gap’s accuracy. These approaches can also be pricier, longer, and more invasive.

Conversely, the retina can be scanned in under five minutes. Understanding more about how this tissue layer links to the body could hand clinicians a stellar new instrument.

The findings were detailed in the British Journal of Ophthalmology.

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