Physicians now warn patients to be increasingly wary of the signs of aging. The notion that people “look old because they’re getting old” is misguided, and a new study conducted by the University of Copenhagen in Denmark has found several ties between visible signs of aging and heart disease.
The new findings were presented to more than 17,000 health professionals at Scientific Sessions 2012, the American Heart Association’s largest gathering of scientists and healthcare professionals devoted to the study of cardiovascular health. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, senior study author for the University’s research initiative, warns that the study “shows that aging signs may mark poor cardiovascular health and therefore validates the prognostic importance of a very simple clinical exam,” (i).
According to the study, the following signs were most strongly correlated with increased risk of heart attack and heart disease:
- Earlobe creases
- Yellow fat deposits around the eyelids
- Hairline recession near the temples
- Thinning or balding hair at the crown of the head
The study also indicated that individuals with at least 3 out of the 4 signs above were at the greatest risk. Of those studied, participants who exhibited at least 3 of the above signs of aging had a 57 percent greater risk of suffering from a heart attack. Moreover, risk of heart disease was 39 percent greater for individuals with at least 3 of the above characteristics.
More Details on This Study
- Total Number of Participants: 10,885
- Participants’ Age & Gender: Both men and women, ages 40 and over
- 7,537 participants had a receding hairline at the onset of the study.
- 3,938 participants exhibited thin / bald areas at the crown of the head at the onset of the study.
- 3,405 showed crease in the earlobes.
- 678 had xanthelasmata, or fatty deposits surrounding the eyelids, often yellow in color.
Not surprisingly, over 30% of the individuals who participated in the study exhibited earlobe creases, a trait that has long been correlated with increased risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease (ii). It is important to note, however, that creases in the earlobes have never been labeled a cause for heart issues. Creases are more common among older men and women who may suffer with heart disease, along with many other illnesses, for a variety of different reasons.
What did surprise researchers, however, was the vast population of participants who exhibited signs of hair loss. With 7,537 showing signs of hairline recession and 3,938 showing thinning or balding at the crown of the head, the prevalence of hair loss among those with a greater risk of developing a heart condition is striking. Like the correlation between earlobe creases and heart disease, however, there is no substantial evidence to show that hair loss causes heart disease. Demonstrating causation between hair loss and heart health, according to Ms. Tybjaerg-Hansen, will require additional follow-up studies.
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Sources for this article include:
(i) Ostrow, Nicole. Receding Hairline Among the Signs of Heart Disease Risk. Accessed November 10, 2012.
(ii) Medline Plus. Earlobe Creases. Accessed November 10th, 2012.