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AI can predict risk factors — from blood pressure to smoking status   | Photo Credit: sezer66

Knowing the risk of a heart attack or a stroke could soon become as simple as an eye test as researchers at Google and its health—tech arm Verily have found that Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) could help identify signals of heart diseases through retinal images.

“AI offers us the potential for new, less invasive tests for heart health — predicting cardiovascular results from retinal images with computer vision — encouraging early results!,” Google CEO Sundar Pichai said on Tuesday.

The study, published in the journal Nature Biomedical Engineering, showed that deep learning applied to a retinal fundus image, a photograph that includes the blood vessels of the eye, can predict risk factors for heart diseases — from blood pressure to smoking status.

The algorithm that the researchers produced can even help predict the occurrence of a future major cardiovascular event, said Michael McConnell, Head of Cardiovascular Health Innovations at Verily.

High accuracy

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death globally and researchers know that lifestyle factors including exercise and diet in combination with genetic factors, age, ethnicity, and sex all contribute to it.

In this study, using data from 284,335 patients, the researchers were able to predict cardiovascular risk factors with surprisingly high accuracy.

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