Heart Attack Risks You Can See in the Mirror

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Heart Attack Risks You Can See in the Mirror

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You only look as good as you feel, right? Actually, you may only feel as good as you look—at least when it comes to aging and heart health. 

Some of the more visible signs of aging, specifically yellow fatty deposits around the eyelid, baldness at the head's crown, earlobe creases, and receding hairline at the temples each signal risk for poor heart health. 

What Heart Attack Risk "Looks" Like

Over 10,000 Caucasian men and women in the Copenhagen Heart Study, ages 40 and older, were studied for 35 years. Those who exhibited the previously mentioned signs of aging had an increase in heart attack and heart disease. Those who had three of the four signs had a 57% increased risk for heart attack and a 39% increased risk for heart disease.

The one predictor most associated with heart disease and heart attack is fatty deposits around the eye. Those with this particular sign had a 35% increase in heart attacks.

The lead investigator in the study, Dr. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, said, “The visible signs of aging reflect physiologic or biologic age and are independent of chronologic age.”

Wrinkled, Gray? No Worries

Two other signs of aging, graying hair and wrinkles, which were also studied, were not related to heart health and seemed to indicate only chronological age rather than age-related health issues. 

Doctors reporting the results at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2012 did not say that these signs of aging cause poor heart health but that “looking old for your age is a marker of poor [heart] health," said Tybjaerg-Hansen.

More studies are needed to understand why these particular signs of aging increase the risk.

In the meantime, she said lipid lowering therapies and lifestyle changes “should be intensified” for those with fatty deposits around the eyes, a receding hair line, earlobe creases or baldness at the crown of the head.

Though you may be quick to notice gray hairs and moisturize wrinkles, when it comes to heart health, those are not the worrisome signs of aging.

Christine "Cissy" White

After three decades as a lacto-ovo vegetarian, Christine "Cissy" White started eating fish. She is enjoying cooking new dishes with her daughter. White has been published in The Boston Globe, Ms. Magazine online, Elephant Journal, Adoption Today, Role Reboot & Literary Mama. Her website, http://www.healwritenow.com/ is about mindful PTSD and living and parenting well.