Wrinkles are not only an inevitable sign of aging, they may also signal something far worse. According to research presented at the recent European Society of Cardiology in Munich, people who have lots of deep forehead wrinkles may have a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease or CVD.
The study, presented in Scienmag, could provide an easy, low-cost way to identify people in a high-risk category for CVD, say the researchers.
“You can’t see risk factors like hypertension or high cholesterol,” says study author Yolande Esquirol, associate professor of occupational health at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France. “We explored forehead wrinkles as a marker because it’s so simple and visual. Just looking at a person’s face could sound an alarm.”
The researchers said that this telltale marker would help doctors identify those at risk for CVD and recommend life style changes before a cardiovascular event occurs. “Of course, if you have a person with a potential cardiovascular risk, you have to check classical risk factors like blood pressure as well as lipid and blood glucose levels, but you could already share some recommendations on lifestyle factors,” Dr. Esquirol says.
While in the past, scientists have established a link between heart disease and male pattern baldness, earlobe creases, and pockets of cholesterol under the skin, these links were not associated with a higher risk of dying.
In the current study, they measured the horizontal lines of 3,200 working adults who were all healthy and were aged 32, 43, 52, and 62 years of age at the beginning of the study.
They were examined by their physicians who assigned scores depending on the number and depth of the wrinkles on their forehead. A score of zero meant no wrinkles.
The study participants were followed for 20 years during which time 233 died of various causes. The authors found that people with wrinkle score of one had a slightly higher risk of dying of cardiovascular disease than people with no wrinkles. Those who had wrinkle scores of two and three had almost 10 times the risk of dying of CVD compared to those with wrinkles scores of zero. These numbers were established after adjustments for age, gender, education, smoking status, blood pressure heart rate, diabetes and lipid levels.
“The higher your wrinkle score, the more your cardiovascular mortality rises,” says Esquirol.
The researchers don’t’ know why this correlation exists but speculate that it may have something to do with atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries due to plaque buildup.
“Forehead wrinkles may be a marker of atherosclerosis,” explains Dr. Esquirol. “This is the first link that has been established between forehead wrinkles and cardiovascular risk so the findings need to be confirmed in future studies,” she says. “But in the meantime, the practice could be used in physicians’ offices and clinics. It doesn’t cost anything and there is no risk.”
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