Nature Biomedical Engineering recently published a study conducted by Google Research that takes a look at how retinal scans can be used to predict a person’s heart health risks. Medicomp, the makers of a top-notch mobile cardiac monitor, report on the study and its findings below.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) list cardiovascular disease as the leading cause of death for most races and ethnicities living in the United States, which makes it extremely important to continue seeking new ways to detect potential heart health problems before they cause serious complications. Google’s new study attempts to do just that using a retinal scanner.

The study used images from 48,101 patients from the UK Biobank and images from 236,234 patients from EyePACS to teach the system how to identify markers of cardiovascular disease. The group then validated these models with images from 12,026 patients from the UK Biobank and 999 patients from EyePACS.

The retinal scan is a painless and non-invasive procedure that is designed to examine the large blood vessels on the back of your retina, which are visible through your pupils. Individuals who might be experiencing high blood pressure may show blood vessels that are constricting, while those with cholesterol issues may have clotted blood vessels. The algorithm also included examining small differences in the blood vessels that would reveal a person’s age and smoking habits.

After examining the results, Google revealed that the algorithm used with the retinal scanner was able to predict which patients would have a heart attack or stroke with 70 percent accuracy. This figure is extremely promising, as there is room to improve the algorithm and scanner in the future for even better results. For example, the study used only images with a 45-degree field of view. Using images with a smaller or larger field view may improve the outcome.

Patients who already have risk factors for heart disease should continue to be monitored by their cardiologist. A cardiologist will be able to keep an eye on blood work, prescribe medications if needed, and check heart health using a heart monitor. To learn about mobile cardiac monitors and how doctors gain valuable information from them call Medicomp at 800-234-3278, or read our News & Updates page.