LOS ANGELES -- Want a clue to your risk of heart disease? Look in
the mirror. People who look old - with receding hairlines, bald heads,
creases near their ear lobes or bumpy deposits on their eyelids - have a
greater chance of developing heart disease than younger-looking people
the same age, new research suggests.
Doctors say the study involving 11,000 Danish people highlights the difference between biological and chronological age.
old for your age marks poor cardiovascular health," said Dr. Anne
Tybjaerg-Hansen of the University of Copenhagen in Denmark. She led the
study and gave results Tuesday at an American Heart Association conference in Los Angeles.
small consolation: Wrinkles elsewhere on the face and gray hair seemed
just ordinary consequences of aging and did not correlate with heart
The research began in 1976. At the start, researchers
documented people's appearance, counting crow's feet, wrinkles and other
signs of age.
In the next 35 years, 3,400 participants developed heart disease (clogged arteries), and 1,700 suffered a heart attack.
risk of these problems increased with each additional sign of aging
present at the start of the study. This was true at all ages and among
men and women, even after taking into account other factors such as
family history of heart disease.
Those with three to four of these
aging signs - receding hairline at the temples, baldness at the crown
of the head, earlobe creases or yellowish fatty deposits around the
eyelids - had a 57% greater risk for heart attack and a 39% greater risk
for heart disease compared to people with none of these signs.
yellowish eyelid bumps, which could be signs of cholesterol buildup,
conferred the most risk, researchers found. Baldness in men has been
tied to heart risk before, possibly related to testosterone levels. They
could only guess why earlobe creases might raise risk.
Magliato, a heart surgeon at St. John's Health Center in Santa Monica,
California, said doctors need to pay more attention to signs literally
staring them in the face.
"We're so rushed to put on a blood
pressure cuff or put a stethoscope on the chest" that obvious, visible
signs of risk are missed, she said.