Heart Care

Some Signs of Aging Linked to an Unhealthy Heart

The old adage "You should never judge a book by its cover" may not hold up when it comes to your heart. Researchers recently reported that people with certain physical features related to aging, such as a receding hairline, may have unhealthier hearts.

Photo of older man with a jigsaw puzzle

Signs of aging

Researchers assessed common characteristics of aging in about 11,000 people in Denmark ages 40 and older. They reviewed features such as wrinkles, gray hair, and baldness. The collected data spanned more than 35 years. It was from the Copenhagen City Heart Study.

You'll be happy to know that wrinkles and gray hair were not related to increased heart troubles. But researchers found that the following four physical features seemed to predict a higher risk for heart disease:

  • A receding hairline at the temples

  • Balding on the top of the head

  • Deposits of fat around the eyelids

  • Creases on the earlobes

Having three to four of these aging signs may put you at a higher risk for heart disease compared with a person of similar age who looks younger. In the study, participants who had most or all of these aging signs had a 39 percent higher risk for heart disease. They also had a 57 percent higher risk for a heart attack.

"Looking old for your age is a good marker for poor cardiovascular health," says study lead author Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, M.D., a professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen.

Understanding the findings

When a doctor assesses a patient's health, he or she may take into account how healthy the person looks overall. But experts stress that these findings shouldn't alarm you. Looking older doesn't guarantee that you will develop heart disease. And it certainly doesn't lead to heart problems.

"People should realize that it is important to distinguish the difference between an association and a risk factor," says Kenneth Ong, M.D., acting chief of cardiology at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "There may not be much you can do about a receding hairline, but risk factors such as high blood pressure can be treated."

These findings were presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

Online Resources

(Our Organization is not responsible for the content of Internet sites.)

American Heart Association - Get Healthy

CDC - Heart Disease Risk Factors

National Institute on Aging - Heart Health

January 2013

7 Steps to a Healthier Heart

How's your heart? A seven-point checklist from the American Heart Association can help you answer that question. The assessment is based on health measures called "Life's Simple Seven"-seven areas where changes can help you avoid heart disease and stroke. Here are the seven goals:

  1. Manage blood pressure. The ideal is below 120/80 milligrams of mercury.

  2. Keep total cholesterol under 200 milligrams per deciliter.

  3. Reduce blood sugar. Fasting blood sugar below 100 mg/dL is best.

  4. Avoid smoking. Either never smoking or quitting more than one year ago counts.

  5. Strive for a weight and height combination that results in a score of 25 or less on the body mass index scale.

  6. Stay active. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise weekly.

  7. Follow a healthy diet. Eat more fruits and vegetables and two servings of oily fish, such as salmon, every week.

Look at your current weight, smoking habits, amount of exercise, and eating habits to give you an idea of how your heart is faring. But learning your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels will offer a more accurate picture. Once you have a roadmap, you'll know what direction to head to reach your destination of a healthier heart.

Always talk with your health care provider to find out more information.

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