Heart disease remains the leading cause of death for men and women universally, and in the individual it can progress silently for decades until a heart attack, stroke, or sudden death brings problems to the surface. There are ways to use CT technology and advanced laboratories to “know your artery score” years before a tragic event interrupts your life or those of your loved ones. While I encourage you to learn and arrange a heart calcium CT scan or carotid IMT ultrasound (especially if you meet the criteria), what if there were a reliable way to have a clue to hardened heart arteries just by looking in the mirror?
A 1973 report in a prestigious medical journal indicated that a diagonal earlobe crease (DELC), particularly if found on both ears, was reasonably accurate for correlating with heart disease. A few studies supported this finding and a few questioned it but Frank’s sign, as it is known, has been studied more recently and the findings are noteworthy enough to warrant a good look at your ears as well as the lobes of your loved ones.
- Chinese researchers examined the relationship between a DELC and the degree of heart disease in over 500 patients having a heart catheterization to examine their arteries. DELCs were more frequent in older patients, males and those with severe heart blockages. The presence of DELCs in both earlobes raised the risk of blocked heart arteries by as much as 500 to 700 percent in both men and women.
- In an evaluation of 1,000 hospitalized patients, the presence of DELCs was independently associated with heart events including heart attacks and strokes.
- In a recent study done at UCLA using advanced heart CT imaging of arteries, adding the presence of DELCs to a long time accepted standard assessment of complaints of chest pain improved the prediction of heart arteries over 50 percent blocked compared to relying on patient history alone.
- In a current study of over 4,000 residents in Switzerland examined for a DELC, the presence of this sign was related to both a history of high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
- In nearly 1,000 patients, a DELC was associated with severe heart disease. If a stent was needed to treat the disease, the presence of bilateral DELCs was related to an increased risk of complications in the following year.
How a DELC is related to the presence, severity, and prognosis of cardiovascular disease is not yet known with certainty, but the fact that you should take a good look at your own earlobes is crystal clear. Google DELCs and you'll see exactly what it looks like.
Here's a fact: Both heart arteries and ear lobes are made of collagen. A weakness of collagen as a root cause of heart disease was a theory proposed by Linus Pauling, Ph.D. decades ago. In order to make abundant collagen for glowing arteries, skin and ear lobes, it is necessary to consume abundant vitamin C and lysine, both nutrients that we do not manufacture but need to eat. I encourage my patients to pack vitamin C rich citrus fruits and greens along with lysine rich legumes and almonds into their daily routines.
Making significant progress in those heart disease numbers calls for a paradigm shift. We should diligently search for the presence of early heart disease and institute reversal programs years before tragedy strikes. Start today by checking your earlobes but if you have heart disease in your family or any suspicion you might have it, go further with advanced laboratory studies and artery imaging tests using heart CT scans and carotid IMT ultrasounds. The body is always trying to communicate, and this is one more example of that.