Earlobe creases, hairline receding at the temples, baldness at the crown of the head and yellow fat deposits around the eyelids are more than just signs of aging.
They’re also markers of heart disease that doctors should note during patient examinations, according to a study presented today at the American Heart Association meeting. Patches of fatty bumps around the eyes were the strongest single predictor of cardiovascular illness among the four traits, the study showed.
Researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark found that people with at least three of these characteristics had a 57 percent greater risk for a heart attack and a 39 percent higher chance of heart disease. The study suggests that signs of aging are markers of poor heart health in addition to risk factors such as high cholesterol, said Anne Tybjaerg- Hansen, a senior study author.
Doctors already assume “that ‘looking old for your age’ is a marker of poor health,” said Tybjaerg-Hansen, professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen, in a Nov. 4 e-mail. “Our study shows that aging signs may mark poor cardiovascular health and therefore validates the prognostic importance of this very simple clinical exam.”
More studies are needed to better understand how these aging signs are tied to risk of heart attack and cardiovascular disease, the authors said. In the meantime, known risk factors like cholesterol levels should be treated, she said.
“Because some aging signs are independent of well-known cardiovascular risk factors, individuals with these signs should perhaps be treated more aggressively with regard to lifestyle changes and lipid-lowering therapy,” she said.
Researchers in the study analyzed 10,885 men and women ages 40 and older from the Copenhagen Heart Study. Of those, 7,537 had a receding hairline at the temples, 3,938 had baldness at the upper back of the head, 3,405 had a crease in their earlobe and 678 had fatty deposits around the eye, called xanthelasmata.
During the 35 years of follow-up, 3,401 study participants developed heart disease and 1,708 had a heart attack. With each additional sign of aging, the risk for heart attack and cardiovascular disease rose.
Those with the highest risk were in their 70s with multiple visible signs of aging, the research found.
To contact the reporter on this story: Nicole Ostrow in New York at firstname.lastname@example.org
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at email@example.com