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Wrinkles have long been a sign of aging, but sadly those fine lines might mean so much more than that. Sure, wrinkles can indicate beauty, wisdom and grace (along with another year around the sun), however, new research suggests they could be a sign of something much more sinister: heart disease.
A new study from France found that people with deeper forehead wrinkles than average for their age were more likely to die from heart disease compared to those with a smoother forehead. This proved to be the case for numerous participants, which added validation to the association between forehead wrinkles and an increased threat of heart disease.
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According to the study’s authors, thanks to this research, looking for these brow wrinkles could be an easy, low-cost way to identify those at-risk for heart disease. With that being said, it won’t replace the traditional techniques for assessing heart disease risks, like looking at high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
"You can't see or feel risk factors like high cholesterol or hypertension," said one study author, Yolande Esquirol. "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."
While the exact reason for the link between the two is unknown, there's a few speculated theories up in the air. The main belief is that atherosclerosis—or hardening of the arteries due to plaque build-up—is at work, which can be a main contributor to cardiovascular events like heart attacks. The blood vessels in the forehead are so small that they could be more sensitive to this build up and result in changes in collagen proteins and oxidative stress which can also result in wrinkles.
Since this is the first discovered connection between forehead wrinkles and heart health, more research is needed to confirm these researcher's findings. However, the prospect of identifying heart disease in such a low-risk, low-cost manner has researchers and patients alike seriously excited about the future—after all, it could one day mean the difference between life and death.