A study has found an individual’s risk of having a heart attack could be calculated during a routine eye examination by combining genetic data and retinal imaging.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh presented findings on risk of myocardial infarction (MI) at the European Society of Human Genetics annual conference in Vienna on June 13.

Using UK Biobank data of over 500,000 people, researchers calculated a measure called fractal dimension and identified that the lower fractal dimension related to coronary artery disease and MI. A model combining traditional clinical factors, such as age, sex and systolic blood pressure, was developed to predict the risk of a heart attack by studying data of people who had experienced a heart attack after collection of their retinal images.

Ana Villaplana-Velasco, from the University of Edinburgh, said: ‘Strikingly, we discovered that our model was able to better classify participants with low or high MI risk in UK Biobank when compared with established models that only include demographic data. The improvement of our model was even higher if we added a score related to the genetic propensity of developing MI.’

Researchers added that, in the future, a retinal exam could provide enough information to identify people at risk of a heart attack.