Wrinkles linked to higher risk of disease
HAVING a wrinkly face dramatically raises the risk of deadly strokes and heart attacks, research reveals.
Scientists found that deep facial wrinkles is an early warning sign of deadly heart trouble.
They claim deep forehead furrows mean key vessels are being blocked with fatty plaques.
Research presented at the world's largest heart conference found adults with the wrinkliest brows were ten times more likely to die young than those with smooth skin.
French medics followed 3,221 volunteers for 20 years - after rating their appearance.
A score of zero meant no forehead wrinkles, while a score of three meant "numerous deep wrinkles."
Experts said their findings reveal a cheap and easy way for GPs to spot people at a high risk of stroke and heart attacks.
Lead researcher Yolande Esquirol, associate professor of occupational health at the University Hospital of Toulouse in France, said heavy wrinkling is a red flag for clogged arteries, known as atherosclerosis.
The condition restricts the flow of blood and oxygen to vital organs and increases the risk of lethal clots.
Speaking at the European Society of Cardiology conference in Munich, she said: "The higher your wrinkle score, the more your cardiovascular mortality risk increases.
"You can't see or feel risk factors like high cholesterol or hypertension.
"Just looking at a person's face could sound an alarm, then we could give advice to lower risk." Dr Esquirol said deep wrinkles are not a result of hard work or stressful lifestyle.
Instead, they are likely caused by the same changes that cause blood vessels to become blocked - such as cell and protein damage.
Fellow researcher Professor Jean Ferrieres, from Toulouse University School of Medicine, said a wrinkly forehead was a better predictor of heart trouble than high cholesterol.
"We found it is a simple visual screening tool that can be used by GPs to identify people at risk," Prof Ferrieres said.
"This is more precise than cholesterol levels, as it is a sign blood vessels are already being damaged.
"We would advise patients with wrinkly brows to see their GP and make lifestyle changes, such as more exercise and better diet."
Risk of heart disease increases as people age, but lifestyle and medical interventions can help reduce the danger.
Vice Chair of the Royal College of GPs Professor Kamila Hawthorne said the findings were "interesting".
"Any research that seeks to aid better identification or treatment of heart disease, and further our understanding of the condition, is welcome, however strange the connection may seem," Prof Hawthorne said.
Associate Medical Director at the British Heart Foundation Professor Jeremy Pearson said: "These results will no doubt cause a few furrowed brows.
"Perhaps wrinkles can tell us more than we think about our heart health but counting lines won't replace tests for well-understood risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure."