It has been said that your eyes are the windows to your soul. Maybe that’s true, maybe it’s not, but eyes are definitely windows into your overall health.
It’s funny how 40 can just sneak up on you. One day you're feeling great and enjoying life and then BAM...you’re 40 and your body starts betraying you. Or at least that’s how I felt last fall as I went for my regular eye exam with my doctor of optometry. At the time, my biggest worry was whether I would need bifocals. As it turns out, I had even more to think about.
During the exam, my doctor noticed that I had a burst blood vessel behind one of my eyes. After asking me a series of questions, she advised that I see my family doctor and get my blood pressure checked.
Eye health can often signal the presence and state of serious medical conditions, such as hypertension, which is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke and chronic heart failure. By looking at the blood vessels in the retina, inside the eye, an eye exam can help identify risks for stroke or heart attack.
Sure enough, my blood pressure was on the high side. My family doctor told me to monitor my blood pressure at different times during the day. He suggested I use the blood pressure machines at local pharmacies.
The results were alarming, to say the least.
I knew that only at age 40, it wasn’t my body that had betrayed me, I had betrayed my body. I hadn’t taken care of it as I should have. I gained weight, I ate and drank what I shouldn’t, and I gave up on exercise. It was my fault. What was a regular eye exam turned into a HUGE wake up call for me.
Since the fall, I have been working to reduce my blood pressure so I wouldn't have to take high blood pressure medication and it seems to be working. I’m eating better, exercising (somewhat) regularly, and I feel better about my overall health. I’ve talked to a nutritionist and we’re working on incorporating healthier habits for both my family and I.
I need to set a better example for my kids so it’s time to think of my two young girls. I want to live to see them get married and have kids of their own. I want to be around to see them grow.
I’ve learned that a comprehensive eye exam can do more than test your vision – it could help save your life. A number of potentially serious health conditions can be detected through a comprehensive eye exam. As was my experience, doctors of optometry may be the first healthcare professionals to detect high blood pressure. Other health conditions that may show symptoms in the eyes include tumours, aneurysms, autoimmune disorders, thyroid disease, sickle cell disease, liver disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological or brain disorders. For more information, visit doctorsofoptometry.ca.
I'm almost due for my next eye exam. I'm interested to see what my eyes can tell me about the state of my health. And as for my blood pressure? I still have a ways to go but I’m on the right path and I intend to stay there!