HEART disease is one of the main causes of death and disability in the UK – and the world.
About one in four people in Western countries die of heart disease, so it’s important to take steps to look after your heart.
But, short of specialist scans, we can’t see how our heart is beating in our chest.
And often a person’s first sign that something might be wrong is when they suffer a heart attack.
That’s why it’s important to know the unusual signs of heart disease, Adam Taylor, director of the clinical anatomy learning centre at Lancaster University, writes for The Conversation.
Here’s six surprising signs you could have heart disease.
1. Creased earlobes
One external indicator is diagonal creases on the earlobes – known as Frank’s sign, named after Sanders Frank, an American doctor who first described the sign.
Studies have shown that there is an association with the visible external crease on the earlobe and increased risk of atherosclerosis, a disease where plaque builds up inside your arteries.
Over 40 studies have demonstrated an association between this feature of the ear and an increased risk of atherosclerosis.
It is not clear what the cause of the association is, but some have postulated that it is to do with a shared embryological origin.
Most recently, it has been seen that these creases are also implicated in cerebrovascular disease – disease of the blood vessels in the brain.
2. Fatty bumps
Another external indicator of heart issues is yellow, fatty bumps – known clinically as xanthomas – that can appear on the elbows, knees, buttocks or eyelids.
The bumps themselves are harmless, but they can be a sign of bigger problems.
Xanthomas are most commonly seen in people with a genetic disease called familial hypercholesterolemia.
People with this condition have exceptionally high levels of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol – so-called bad cholesterol.
The levels of this cholesterol are so high they become deposited in the skin.
Unfortunately, these fatty deposits are also laid down in arteries that supply the heart.
The mechanism that causes these fatty deposits in tissues is understood and it holds an iconic place in medicine as it led to the development of one of the blockbuster group of drugs that reduce cholesterol: statins.