But four other outward signs were closely linked with poorer heart health: receding hairlines at the temples, balding at the crown of the head, fatty deposits around the eyelids, and creasing of the earlobes.
For example, Tybjaerg-Hansen said, "if you are a 70- to 79-year-old male and you have three to four [of these] aging signs, then you have a 10-year, 40 percent risk of [developing] ischemic heart disease," significantly higher than men of similar age with fewer aging signs.
Based on the study's results, Tybjaerg-Hansen said that a routine doctor's office exam should include a quick check of these indicators of aging.
Physicians tended to agree with the study findings.
"These subtle skin findings are a helpful part of every clinician's routine physical exam screening," said Dr. David Friedman, chief of heart failure services at North Shore-LIJ's Plainview Hospital in Plainview, N.Y. "I specifically look for signs around the nasal crease and upper eyelid area as a marker for potentially elevated blood cholesterol; and it's interesting that the earlobe crease once again might suggest elevated cardiac risk, which has been mentioned in old physical exam textbooks."
Dr. Kenneth Ong is acting chief of cardiology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. He agreed that "these physical findings may assist in earlier identification and management of heart problems."
But he stressed that signs of aging only reflect -- not cause -- heart disease. "People should realize that it is important to distinguish the difference between an association and a risk factor; there may not be much you can do about a receding hairline, but risk factors such as high blood pressure can be treated," Ong said.
And Friedman cautioned about reading to
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