Heart attack: The sign in your eye that can predict an attack with 70-80% accuracy

What's the difference between a heart attack and cardiac arrest?

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Image recognition software promises to improve diagnostics for a large number of conditions.

AIs have been used to compare tumour pictures and identify the risk of spread.

The technology is now being used to determine a person’s risk of suffering from a heart attack by examining pictures of their eyes.

The blood vessels of the eye are sensitive to changes elsewhere in the body, responding to conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure.

Professor Chris Gale, one of the authors said: “The AI system has the potential to identify individuals attending routine eye screening who are at higher future risk of cardiovascular disease.”

Professor Gale explains that this early detection can allow for preventive treatments before a person suffers from any harmful symptoms or events.


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Deep learning is a complex method of training computer systems.

It trains computers to identify patterns in a set of data.

In this case, the computer was provided with matched retina and heart scans from a group of 5,000 people.

This taught the computer to identify signs in the retina that occur alongside a change in the heart.

Once the learning process was completed, the AI could estimate the size and efficiency of the left ventricle, one of the heart’s chambers, purely from retinal scans.

A enlarged ventricle is tied to an increased risk of heart disease, and the AI could make a prediction combining this with demographic data to give a risk prediction for the next 12 months.

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Professor Alex Frangi, who supervised the research said: “This technique opens up the possibility of revolutionising the screening of cardiac disease.

“Retinal scans are comparatively cheap and routinely used in many optician practices.

“As a result of automated screening, patients who are at high risk of becoming ill could be referred to specialist cardiac services.

“The scans could also be used to track the early signs of heart disease.”

Currently the information the AI infers from the retina about the heart’s left ventricle can only be obtained through extensive and expensive diagnostic tests.

These diagnostic tests are only available in well equipped hospitals, and present significant costs and waiting times.

Being able to make predictions using a simple and cheap eye exam allows the tool to be used more broadly than existing screening methods.

Professor Sven Plein, another author, said: “The AI system is an excellent tool for unravelling the complex patterns that exist in nature, and that is what we have found here – the intricate pattern of changes in the retina linked to changes in the heart.”

A heart attack occurs when bloodflow to part of the heart is obstructed. 

It can be caused by the accumulation of cholesterol narrowing the blood vessels and a clot forming. 

You can reduce your risk by controlling risk factors such as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 

This may involve dietary changes or a doctor prescribing medications that lower your blood pressure. 

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