5 Things Your Wrinkles Say About Your HealthBy Hallie Levine
Here is what your wrinkles can tell you about your overall health.
You can try to erase wrinkles with cosmetic procedures, or you can accept them as a badge of aging—a sign that you’ve lived your life long and well. You probably know that some creases can indicate a quick smile and a genial nature; others, a lifetime of lounging in the sun. What you may not realize is that your wrinkles can also reveal potential health concerns. Take a look at the following 5:
1. You’re at risk for osteoporosis.
A recent study found the deeper your wrinkles, the lower your bone density.
Your skin may actually be a window to your bones, according to a 2011 Yale study. Researchers looked at more than 100 women in their late 40s and early 50s who were in the first three years of menopause and found that those with the most and deepest wrinkles actually had the lowest bone density. (None of the women were on hormone therapy.) “Both bone and skin share common building blocks, a group of proteins known as collagens, which decrease in both as we age,” explains study author Lubna Pal, MD, director of the Program for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome & Menopause at Yale University School of Medicine. (Here are 12 simple ways to strengthen your bones for life.)
2. You have early stage heart disease.
A diagonal wrinkle in your ear lobe (see what it looks like here) may be an early warning sign of ticker trouble. In fact, folks with this ear crease (known as “Frank’s sign,” after the researcher, Sanders T. Frank, who discovered it in 1973) were much more likely to show signs of heart disease during a CT scan than people who didn’t have the crease, according to a 2012 study done at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. One theory is that the wrinkles are caused by the collapse of tiny blood vessels to the ear lobe, and this is a reflection of the changes in blood vessels around the heart, explains Debra Jaliman, MD, a dermatologist at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
3. You have high blood pressure.
Women who look younger than their years—meaning they have less facial sagging—tend to have lower blood pressure, according to a 2013 study done at Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands. The study also found that both men and women from families with longevity were less likely to have skin wrinkling on their upper arms than other people the same age.
4. You’re under a ton of stress.
Doctors say worrying can give you wrinkles. “I can often tell how anxious a new patient is by the lines on her face,” says NYC dermatologist Janet Prystowsky, MD, PhD. When you’re stressed, you tend to furrow your brow, which over time can lead to permanent forehead wrinkles. But you’ll see them elsewhere on your face as well: When you’re constantly anxious, your body pumps out large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, which degrades collagen in your skin. (Are you just stressed, or is it an anxiety disorder? It’s more common than you think.)
5. You’re eating too much sugar. Wrinkles could be a sign that you eat too much sugar.
When you consume the sweet stuff, the sugar attaches to proteins in your body to form AGEs—a fitting acronym for advanced glycation end products. AGEs break down collagen and elastin, and that can lead to even more fine lines and wrinkles, says Holly Kanavy, MD, director of Pharmacology at Montefiore Health System and assistant professor of Medicine at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try to quench it with fruit: Research shows that most fruit (but especially pomegranates and mangos) have anti-glycating properties, which means they can reverse the damage done to your skin. (Check out Sugar Smart Express for a 21-day plan to break your sugar addiction, drop pounds, and save your skin.)