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Baldness, Signs Of Aging Linked To Heart Risks

Telltale visible signs of aging, such as baldness and fatty deposits on the eyelids, are linked to an increased risk for heart attack and heart disease, according to new research presented at a scientific meeting in the US this week.

Senior author of the study Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, a professor of clinical biochemistry at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, says in a news report from the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012 in Los Angeles:

"The visible signs of aging reflect physiologic or biological age, not chronological age, and are independent of chronological age."

In their study, Tybjaerg-Hansen and colleagues found that people with three to four signs of aging, such as baldness, a receding hairline, earlobe crease and yellow fatty deposits around the eyelids (xanthelasmata), had a 57% increased risk for heart attack (myocardial infarction) and a 39% increased risk for heart disease (ischemic heart disease).

To arrive at these conclusions, they analyzed data on 10,885 people taking part in the Copenhagen Heart Study. All participants were aged 40 and over, and 45% were women.

As part of the study, nurses and lab staff examined the participants for several of the signs of aging, such as quantity of gray hair, type and extent of baldness, prominence of wrinkles, eyelid deposits, and earlobe crease.

7,537 of the participants had hairlines receding at the temples (frontoparietal baldness), 3,938 had baldness on the top of the crown, 3,405 had earlobe crease, and 678 had fatty deposits around the eye.

Over the 35 years of follow-up, 3,401 of the participants developed heart disease, and 1,708 had heart attacks.

When they analyzed these results statistically, the researchers found both separately and together the signs of aging were tied to a higher risk for heart attack and heart disease, even when ruling out age, other well-known cardiovascular risk factors, and markers of socioeconomic status.

The strongest link was between fatty deposits around the eye and both heart attack and heart disease.

The risks went up with each additional sign of aging, both in men and women, they found, with the highest risks being among those in their 70s with several signs of aging.

Tybjaerg-Hansen says checking for visible signs of aging should be a routine part of every doctor's physical exam.

The researchers say further studies should now be done to determine the biological mechanisms that might explain how these signs of aging are tied to heart risks.

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