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Are Wrinkles a Sign of a More Serious Health Issue?

Are Wrinkles a Sign of a More Serious Health Issue?
Concerned about wrinkles? There may be a reason to worry about lines and creases beyond how they affect your appearance. New research presented at the European Society of Cardiology's annual meeting shows a potential link between wrinkles and cardiovascular disease.

Specifically, the heart health researchers are concerned about the connection between deep forehead wrinkles and a higher risk of dying from a heart condition.

This new research may make identifying individuals living with cardiovascular disease, or CVD, a lot easier and less invasive.

Current testing for CVD involves procedures such as blood draws, stress tests and cardiac catheterization. The study authors on the project hope that identifying deep forehead wrinkles as a marker for CVD can help doctors decide if these tests are necessary or not.

Cardiovascular disease encompasses heart conditions, as well as conditions that impact the blood vessels of the heart. The most common types of CVD include coronary artery disease (CAD), damage to the heart's major blood vessels, high blood pressure and heart attack. Other conditions under the CVD umbrella include congestive heart failure, irregular heartbeat and peripheral artery disease.

Cardiovascular disease can often develop as a result of aging, but it can also develop because of lifestyle factors such as obesity and stress.

So, How Do Wrinkles Factor Into CVD?
During their research, the study authors studied the health and appearance of 3,200 healthy, working adults aged 32, 42, 52 and 62. Participants received a score between zero and three rating the depths of their forehead wrinkles.

Those with no forehead wrinkles were scored zero, while those with very deep forehead wrinkles were rated as a three.

The researchers then followed the participants for 20 years; during this observation period, 233 participants died. Fifteen percent of those who died had forehead wrinkle scores of two or three. Almost 7 percent (6.6) had wrinkle scores of one, and 2.1 percent of those who died did not have any wrinkles.

Upon analysis, the researchers found that those with scores of one or higher had a higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Researchers on the project also considered factors that can lead to the development of CVD, including gender, age, education level, smoking and diabetes.

While this study shows a preliminary link between forehead wrinkles and an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, the researchers are not exactly sure why the connection exists. One theory is that job-related stress contributes to the development of both wrinkles and heart disease.

Dr. Bill Johnson, a Dallas, Texas, physician, recognizes the impact of stress on the skin.

"Like the heart and every other organ of the body, the skin is negatively affected by stress," Johnson said.

Stress negatively affects skin by interfering with collagen production. Collagen is a protein that is abundant throughout the body and the skin; it gives the skin its shape, structure and ability to retract.

When the skin loses its ability to recover from regular movements, such as facial expressions, wrinkles form. When faced with stress, individuals tend to make more facial expressions such as frowning or scowling, which also leads to a higher occurrence of wrinkles.

Stress can also cause other skin woes, including blemishes, acne and dark circles.

"Stress often causes a lack of sleep and a focus away from taking care of oneself. This means skin care routines get disrupted," Johnson said.

Although researchers in the European Society of Cardiology are delving deeper into the connection between forehead wrinkles and deaths from cardiovascular problems, Johnson is still unsure about the relationship.

"More in-depth research is necessary, but it is an interesting theory," Johnson said.

Source: European Society of Cardiology. "Deep forehead wrinkles may signal a higher risk for cardiovascular mortality." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 August 2018.
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