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Body Mass Index, Diabetes and Your Vision

Body Mass Index (BMI) is one of the measures used to determine obesity. It is a ratio of a person’s height and weight. While it is not the only measure use to diagnose obesity, it along with increased waist size can be a very useful predictor of risk for many serious medical conditions that can cause morbidity, blindness and possible death. Calculate your BMI online.

A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 is considered normal. A BMI between 25 and 29.9 indicates you are overweight. A BMI between 30 and 39.9 indicates obesity whereas a BMI above 40 indicates morbid obesity. A waist size greater than 40 in men and 35 in women also indicates obesity.

Individuals with an elevated BMI are at increased for: Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Coronary Heart Disease, Heart Attack, Stroke, Sleep Apnea and Cancer. An elevated BMI increases the risk for heart attack by 70%, and there is a 4000% greater chance of developing Type 2 Diabetes. Some studies show that patients with a BMI over 40 who cannot lose weight through diet or exercise should be counseled on bariatric weight loss surgery.

So what does all of this have to do with your eyes?

Diabetes is the leading cause of blindness in the United States. An estimated 21 million people have diabetes and 40% of people ages 40-74 are pre-diabetic. Diabetic retinopathy afflicts 4.1 million people. Elevated blood sugars damage the internal lining of the blood vessels which cause damage and eventually closure of the vessels with resultant tissue death. This occurs all throughout the body. Diabetic retinopathy is the result of this process, which causes retinal damage, possibly leading to blindness. Most diabetics can prevent diabetic retinopathy with good blood sugar control, diet and exercise. One of the tests your doctor will perform is a blood test called a hemoglobin A1c, which is an estimate of your blood sugar over the past 3 months. A value of less than 6.5% significantly reduces the risk of retinopathy and vision loss. Your physician can develop a treatment strategy to safely reduce you blood sugar to attain these levels if possible.

It is important for diabetic patients to have an annual eye exam to determine if diabetic retinopathy is present, as early detection can lead to treatments that can help slow down the progression of the retinal disease. Along with a thorough eye examination we can utilize our state of the art technologies of: digital retinal photography, and ocular coherence tomography to detect early changes that may be occurring. Our eye doctors will send a report to your physician describing if any diabetic retinopathy is present and refer you to a retinologist is any treatment is necessary.

If you have an elevated BMI please see your medical doctor. They can counsel you on your options of diet, exercise, and surgery to reduce your BMI and improve your overall health and risk of diseases. If you are diabetic please make sure you have an annual eye examination to determine if any treatment is necessary to prevent serious vision loss.

Dr. Bob Hammond
Optometrist
Johnson Optometric Associates

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