Don’t frown, but wrinkly foreheads linked to CVD death

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Crumpled brows could be an early indicator of atherosclerosis, say researchers at an EU cardiology conference

People with very wrinkly foreheads are nearly 10 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease (CVD) than those boasting smooth brows, according to a landmark study.
Horizontal brow wrinkles could therefore be a red flag that further assessment and advice was needed, the researchers reported at the European Society of Cardiology Congress in Munich over the weekend.

“Just looking at a person’s face could sound an alarm, then we could give advice to lower risk,” said study author Associate Professor Yolande Esquirol, from the occupational health department at the Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Toulouse in France.

More than 3000 healthy French participants were recruited from the wider VISAT (Ageing, Health and Work) cohort, aged between 32 and 62 at baseline.

Their brow wrinkles were ranked from zero (no wrinkles) to three (numerous, deep wrinkles) at the start of the study.

Over the 20-year follow-up, the study authors found participants with wrinkle scores of 2-3 were 9.6 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those with unlined foreheads.

Meanwhile, those with wrinkle scores of 1 had 5.7 times the CVD mortality.

Adjustments were made for age, gender, education, smoking, systolic blood pressure, heart rate, diabetes and dyslipidaemia.

“The higher your wrinkle score, the more your cardiovascular mortality risk increases,” said Dr Esquirol.

The study authors said they didn’t know why a crumpled brow increased CVD risk, which was also independent of job strain.

But they speculated wrinkles were an early indicator of atherosclerosis.

Changes in collagen protein and oxidative stress played a part in both wrinkles and atherosclerosis, they said.

As forehead vessels were small, they could be more sensitive to change, meaning wrinkles were an early sign of vessel aging.

“This is the first time a link has been established between cardiovascular risk and forehead wrinkles, so the findings do need to be confirmed in future studies,” said Professor Esquirol.

“But the practice could be used now in physicians’ offices and clinics. It doesn’t cost anything and there is no risk,” she added.