By Melanie Haiken, Forbes.com Contributor
Okay, this is a weird one: Four highly specific physical characteristics of aging appear to predict heart disease. So says research presented yesterday at the Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association in Los Angeles. The signs are:
* Receding Hair at the Temples
* A Bald Spot at the Top or Back of the Head
* A Crease or Creases in the Earlobes
* Small Bumps on the Eyelid – Known as Xanthelasmata
People who had three of these four signs (obviously, primarily men) were at 57 percent higher risk of having a heart attack and 39 percent higher risk of heart disease than normal.
There’s no causation here; none of these physical attributes appears to be a sign of anything wrong, other than aging. So it all depends at what age they occur. Signs of early aging are considered indicators of poor overall health, which usually means poor heart health.
The research was done in Denmark at the University of Copenhagen using data from the 35-year Copenhagen Heart Study. Clinical biochemist Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen and her team analyzed information about 10,885 men and women over 40. They tallied the number of people who had each of the signs, then correlated those numbers with the number that had had a heart attack or developed heart disease. They also looked for other signs of aging, such as gray hair and wrinkles, and noted participants who appeared to look old for their age.
The results showed that the participants’ heart attack and heart disease risk increased with each risk factor. The strongest single prediction for heart disease came with fatty eyelid bumps, which were also the rarest aging sign.
Other studies have also found the connection between earlobe creases and cardiovascular health. But those studies also appear to suggest that this is because earlobe creases are a sign of age, and it’s the aging that’s the risk factor.
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