In atherosclerosis, plaque builds up inside the arteries, making them less elastic and narrowing them down over time.
This limits the supply of oxygen-rich blood to the body’s major organs, which, in turn, may lead to a range of diseases — depending on which organ is affected.
When plaque accumulates inside the coronary arteries, coronary heart disease and even heart attacks may ensue.
Some of the main risk factors for atherosclerosis include smoking, high cholesterol levels, insulin resistance, high blood pressure, physical inactivity, age, and a family history of heart disease.
New research adds another risk factor to the list — and one that may be more easy to detect than high blood pressure or insulin resistance. Deep forehead wrinkles, say the authors of the new study, may signal atherosclerosis.
The new research was presented at the 2018 annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology, held in Munich, Germany.
Study author Yolande Esquirol, who is an associate professor of occupational health at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France, shares what motivated the research. “You can’t see or feel risk factors like high cholesterol or hypertension,” she says.
“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, then we could give advice to lower risk.”
This is not the first time that facial features are explored as a potential marker of cardiovascular health. For example, male pattern baldness and prematurely gray hair have been found to raise heart disease risk by fivefold in previous studies.
Cardiovascular death risk 10 times higher
Esquirol and colleagues examined forehead wrinkles in 3,200 healthy adults, aged 32–62 at baseline. The researchers assessed the participants’ wrinkles by applying a score ranging from 0 (“no wrinkles”) to 3 (“numerous deep wrinkles”).