Your Earlobe and Heart Health
Cardiovascular disease is said to be a silent killer. It’s a ticking time bomb, and frequently, there are no warning signs. Cardiovascular disease plagues 80 million Americans each year, and is the cause of one million deaths. That’s 35% of American deaths each year.
Although many of us love surprises, cardiovascular disease is not one we wish to sneak up on us. Most people want to know if they are at risk. Is it cholesterol levels, inflammatory markers, high blood pressure? There are tests for those, although the jury is still out regarding the root causes of heart attacks. Being that 50% of heart attacks occur in people with normal to low levels of LDL cholesterol, your cholesterol lab results may not be the best tool to utilize to better understand your risk.
A number of studies are linking a curious visible mark on people’s earlobe with increased risk of heart disease and stroke (Go ahead--look at your ear right now). It’s called the “Frank’s Sign,” named after the doctor who discovered this association, and it’s a diagonal crease on your earlobe that is associated with cardiovascular risk.
The first study regarding Frank’s Sign and its link to cardiovascular disease was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1973, so this information is not new. Since then, numerous other studies have been conducted that continue associating this diagonal earlobe crease with increased risk of cardiovascular events and strokes.
Studies show that by the time an earlobe crease is visible, arteries already are in the midst of disease state. In fact, 78% of people with Frank’s sign in one study had heart disease. An autopsy study from Sweden confirmed this, showing Frank’s sign strongly associated with coronary artery disease and sudden cardiovascular death.
This association between cardiovascular disease and an earlobe crease has been studied globally for decades. In the UK, studies showed people with an earlobe crease were nearly twice as likely to have coronary disease.
Recently, a Chinese study of 450 participants looking at arterial blockage showed a significant increase in atherosclerosis progression in those with a visible earlobe crease.
A Turkish study supports the research from China--an earlobe crease showed increased risk for cardiovascular disease and coronary artery disease.
Still skeptical? A compelling Danish study of nearly 11,000 participants who were followed for up to 35 years and did not have coronary artery disease at the initiation of the study found that those who had an earlobe crease were significantly more likely to develop heart disease. The earlobe crease also correlated with increased risk of heart attack. These associations were found to be independent of other, well-established risk factors.
Currently, over 40 studies have been published regarding the association between the ear crease and increased risk of developing atherosclerosis. The risk has also been extended to include cerebrovascular disease, meaning diseases that impact the blood vessels to the brain.
A 2017 study published in The American Journal of Medicine, for example, demonstrated that people with Frank’s Sign are at increased risk of ischemic stroke. This included increased stroke risk even in those participants without presence of comorbidities, such as heart disease or heart disease risk.
Based on these numerous studies and the new data on its link with increased stroke risk, the Faculty of Medicine at Bar-Ian University in Israel has even suggested that Frank’s sign be added to the international classic list of risk factors for heart disease and stroke.
So, what exactly is going on? Are earlobes connected to the heart? It is speculated that the earlobe crease is a sign of poor circulation and elastic tissue degeneration that results from aging and systemic inflammation. Frank’s Sign is rarely seen in children.
If you have Frank’s Sign, it can serve as a warning to you, a call to action to take healthier measures to reduce stress, eat healthy, supplement properly, exercise regularly and help prevent the progression of coronary artery disease.
Various supplements have been shown to provide cardiovascular support by reducing oxidative stress known to create systemic inflammation, which can impact the vascular system. To best support the brain and heart, reducing oxidative stress and the resulting inflammation is key.
CoQ10 is a natural compound our bodies make that is responsible for multiple functions, including energy. It is stored in what is known as the powerhouse of your cells, your mitochondria. Interestingly, your most vital organs also contain the highest amount of CoQ10 because they require more energy in order to function properly. With its antioxidant properties, CoQ10 protects your brain, heart and other organs from free radicals and oxidative stress. It ensures cells function properly. Supplementing with CoQ10 helps block cells from the damage of oxidative stress and feed the mitochondrial fuel house with resources necessary for optimal energy production.
Other supplements such as glutathione can help support optimal detoxification which can reduce systemic inflammation and the burden that toxins create on your organs. Glutathione is the master antioxidant and like CoQ10, is produced by your body but in reduced amounts over time due to aging, chronic illness and inflammation as well as toxic overload.
Supplementing with s-acetyl glutathione is nearly as equivalent to IV glutathione in that it is not readily broken down by stomach acids, allowing for greater absorption via the small intestine.
Magnesium is also essential to cardiovascular function. A meta-analysis of nine prospective cohort studies consisting mostly of participants without cardiovascular disease at baseline, reported a 22% lower risk of Coronary Heart Disease when taking 200 mg/day of magnesium.
In other studies, participants with low magnesium levels had a 36% increased risk of CHD mortality. Collectively, the research shows the importance of magnesium supplementation in prevention of Coronary Heart Disease and reducing mortality risk. Studies indicate that low levels of magnesium in the blood are associated with systemic inflammation, which causes a disruption in vascular tone, possibly contributing to the development of atherosclerosis.
Be sure that you choose a bioavailable form of magnesium that is gentle on the stomach, such as magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate. Magnesium is best when taken in the evening--it helps relax the body, reduce pain of aching muscles and induce sleep.
Remember that oxidative stress is caused by many things. Lifestyle choices such as smoking, consuming high fat, processed foods and sugar, alcohol consumption, various pharmaceuticals, pesticides and other toxins as well as exposure to radiation are some common culprits. If you have Frank’s Sign blinking its warning on your earlobes, it’s a good idea to also make wiser lifestyle choices to help reduce your cardiovascular risk.