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Q
Do Earlobe Creases Predict Heart Trouble?

My husband heard on the radio today that there may be a link between heart disease and an earlobe crease. Have you heard of any studies on this issue? What are your thoughts?

A
Answer (Published 3/3/2009)

More than 30 studies over the past few decades have examined the question of whether an earlobe crease is a sign of heart disease, suggests cholesterol deposits in arteries, or indicates a higher than normal risk of heart trouble. The crease in question runs diagonally across the earlobe. Some studies have found an association between earlobe creases and heart disease and some have not. A study often cited in support of the earlobe crease theory came from the University of Chicago and was published in 1991. Researchers followed 108 patients for eight to 10 years and found that those who had the creases had higher rates of heart disease and higher rates of death from heart-related problems than those who didn't. Other studies have found no such associations and have concluded that the prevalence of earlobe creases probably increases with age, as does heart disease.

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In other words, there's no medical consensus on whether or not an earlobe crease is a meaningful marker for the presence of heart disease or a propensity toward it. Researchers do agree that the presence of these creases probably isn't significant in Native Americans and Asians.

Other physical attributes have also been associated with higher rates of heart disease. For example, in 2004, the BBC reported on a study at Britain's Bristol University showing that among the 4,000 women participating, short legs were a risk factor and that for every 4.3 centimeters above a specified baseline in leg length (about 1.7 inches) heart disease risk decreased 16 percent. The leg length factor remained strong even after the investigators accounted for other risks, such as higher cholesterol levels, age, weight, smoking, insulin resistance and poorer lung function. The British researchers suggested that environmental factors (such as diet and socioeconomic circumstances) from birth to puberty affected both the growth of bones in the leg and the long-term effects in developing heart disease.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

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