6 Physical Traits That May Be Linked to Heart Disease

8/30/2010

People come in all shapes and sizes. Do our physical characteristics have anything to do with a healthy heart? A Beaumont expert says there are six physical traits that may be linked to heart disease.

Male Baldness
"Regardless of your age, if you're balding, you have an increased risk of heart disease," says Thomas Vanhecke, M.D., cardiologist fellow, Beaumont Hospital, Royal Oak. The risk of heart disease increases by 9 percent in men starting to lose hair on the front of their heads compared to those without hair loss. The risk jumps to 23 percent when a bald spot appears on the crown of the head, and rises to 36 percent when all the hair is gone from the top of the head.

Tall People vs. Short People
Studies have found that tall people tend to be less susceptible to heart disease. On average, a 1 centimeter increase in height is associated with a 2 percent decrease in the risk of heart disease. Shorter people are more likely to be overweight and develop diabetes, two established risk factors for heart disease.

Bumpy Elbows
Certain bumps on the tendons, located close to the skin, on elbows or Achilles tendons, may be cholesterol deposits. These are typically found in people with genetic disorders or high cholesterol and are associated with an increased risk of heart disease.

Teeth and Gums
"Some patients with valve disorders are prone to heart infections from bacteria that reside in the mouth," says Dr. Vanhecke. While some experts debate whether poor oral hygiene is a cause of heart attacks or just a signal of poor overall health, studies of patients with heart disease have shown relationships between poor dental hygiene, gum disease and heart disease.

Eye color
It doesn't matter if you have brown, green or blue eyes, but if you have a ring around the iris, the colored portion of the eye, this may signify high cholesterol. Those with high cholesterol have an increased risk of heart disease.

Waist Size
Being overweight is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease. Body mass index and waist sizes are two methods that are used to judge if someone is overweight or obese. "For those who are overweight, lifestyle changes, including diet and exercise, are important steps for reducing risk," says Dr. Vanhecke.