The difference between the biological age of the retina in the back of the eye and the actual (chronological) age of a person is an indicator of an increased risk of death, according to a new scientific study, which makes this correlation for the first time. The more biologically aged a retina is, the worse a person's health is and consequently the greater the chance of dying prematurely.
The scientists, led by Dr. Lisa Chowing Choo of the Australian Center for Ophthalmological Research in Melbourne, who published the relevant issue in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, said that the tool for monitoring the general health of the people.
There is growing evidence that the retinal vascular network can be a reliable indicator of the overall health of the circulatory system and the brain. The risk of disease and death increases with age, but varies considerably from person to person of the same age and this is partly due to differences between people in terms of their biological age.
Researchers have developed a new method, with the help of artificial intelligence (machine learning), that can assess the biological age of the retina and its deviation from chronological age. They used a large sample of nearly 36.000 people, in whom the biological age of the retina was measured. It was found that 51% of people had retinas with a biological age of at least three years older than the actual age (chronological), 28% had "scissors" of at least five years, while 4,5% over ten years.
Over the course of a decade, 1.871 people died. It was found that large age "scissors" were associated with a significant increase of 49% to 67% of the risk of premature death. Each additional year in which the biological-chronological age of the retina widens is associated with a 2% to 3% increase in the risk of death from any cause.
The findings, according to the researchers, "show that the retinal age gap is an independent prognostic indicator of an increased risk of death, especially of etiology other than cardiovascular and cancer." The biological age of the retina appears to be a clinically important biomarker of aging. "The retina offers a unique accessible 'window' for the assessment of the underlying pathological processes of systemic vascular and neurological diseases associated with increased mortality."