Your numbers—cholesterol, blood pressure, body mass index (BMI)—are what matter most for increased risk of heart disease or heart attack. But there are certain visible signs of aging also could point to heart problems:
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- Receding hairline at the temples
- Baldness at the crown
- Earlobe crease
- Yellow fatty deposits around the eyelid
A study released at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012 showed those with three to four of the above-mentioned aging signs had a 57 percent increased risk for heart attack and 39 percent increased risk for heart disease.
Before you scratch your bald head and wonder if it’s time to see a cardiologist, relax. “These signs are associated with heart attacks, but they don’t cause heart attacks,” clarifies Cleveland Clinic Cardiovascular Surgeon Marc Gillinov, MD.
In the study, researchers analyzed 10,885 people age 40 or older (45 percent women). Of these, 7,537 had receding hairline at the temples, 3,938 had crown-top baldness, 3,405 had earlobe crease, and 678 had fatty deposits around the eye. After 35 years of follow-up, 3,401 participants developed heart disease and 1,708 had a heart attack.
The single most telltale visible sign of higher heart trouble risk: fatty deposits around the eyes. Also, the highest risk for heart issues presented in participants who were in their seventies, and those with multiple signs of aging.
The study’s senior author says doctors should add these surface signals to physical examinations. But looks aren’t everything. “I would not search for these signs in every patient,” Dr. Gillinov says. He emphasizes that it’s more important for patients to know proven heart risk factors, including family history, and their numbers—blood pressure, LDL cholesterol and body mass index.