Heart disease is an umbrella term that covers a gamut of commonplace heart and blood vessel diseases. The most prevalent underlying cause of heart disease is a process known as atherosclerosis; which is the progressive build-up of obstructive plaque on the inside of the arteries.
The eventual outcome of the blocked arteries is, of course, a significant reduction in blood flow which leads to heart attack and sometimes stroke. In the United States alone, one-quarter of all deaths are related to heart disease; worldwide, the increased incidence of heart attacks and strokes has become an alarming trend. While high blood pressure and smoking are the most commonly known risk factors involved in the development of heart disease, did you know that there is evidence to link heart disease and the growth of hairs on the ear?
Our bodies are naturally covered in hair. With the exception of the lips, palms of the hands, and bottoms of the feet, body hair covers our bodies. Find out more about how our inner and outer ear hairs grow as we age as Men.
Body hair is composed of thin, short, capillary fibers which develop and thicken during and after puberty. Body hair is differentiated from the hair that grows on the head by its lack of sebaceous glands of shorter length. Although the density of body hair will vary from one individual to the next and between genders, all humans have some body hair.
As individuals, age hair growth increases noticeably, especially in men, and especially around the ears. Hair inside the ears serves essential functions such as keeping dirt and other contaminants away from the delicate eardrum, and with maintaining balance, external ear hair does not. Average hair growth around the ear is thin and barely visible; when this hair becomes thick and course this might be a sign of abnormal processes in your body.
Surprisingly, one of these abnormal processes might be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. How could thick, coarse, hair around the ears possibly be a predictor for heart disease? As it turns out, it has been linked more than once. A few studies done in the 1970s and 1980s have correlated the presence of this type of hair to coronary-artery disease to a significant degree in various populations. This should not be entirely surprising since patterns of hair growth have been suspected as risk factors for cardiac disease.
Recent studies have shown that premature greying, and early hair loss, are more accurate predictors for heart disease in men 40 years old or younger. A study done on close to 800 men under 40 who had confirmed cases coronary artery disease against a much larger control group, found that the severity of heart disease symptoms was directly related to levels of hair loss and greying.
In the case of increased growth of hair on the external ear as well as the ear canal, the studies were initially conducted in 1984 by a group of New York physicians. In a small sample study, they found that close to 90% of their subjects who had ear canal hair growth had also experienced heart failure. Five years later, in 1989, a study was published in India that concluded that a significant relationship existed between heart disease and the presence of ear hair.
What do Medical Professionals say about this?
Finally, in 2006, the American Journal of Forensic Medical Pathology published study conducted on more than 500 hundred forensic autopsy
cases found that earlobe creases and coronary artery disease were tightly related. The cause of death being in these cases being coronary atherosclerosis, aortosclerosis, and cerebrosclerosis. More than half of the subjects displayed diagonal earlobe creases and ear canal hair growth. The study concluded that these characteristics could be used as a positive predictive value of heart disease of around 70%, in younger subjects, the positive predictive value was as high as 80%. Apart from age and body mass index, the state of the ear is surprisingly one of the most influential independent risk factors associated with heart disease and heart attack deaths.
The presence of androgens in the blood and prolonged exposure to them has a significant role in the development of atherosclerosis and other types of heart disease. While the reason linking ear hair and heart disease is not yet known with certainty, it is highly suspected that prolonged exposure to serum androgens is the cause behind both phenomena.
Androgenicity, or the degree to which a patient is exposed to free serum androgens over the years, may very well explain the virilization of the ear and thus excessive hair growth on and around the ear canal. It is important to note that aging signs such as graying hair, baldness, and facial wrinkling have been long correlated with heart disease, especially myocardial infarction. Ear hair growth is considered to a certain degree an expected sign of aging, and thus the relationship between its presence and an increased risk for heart disease might not be causal. The all the studies performed used small test groups after all.
Further investigation will have to be conducted before the medical community can say with any degree of certainty if and why hair growth around the ear can be used as a predictor of increased risk for heart disease.
However, whereas lifestyle choices and risk factors such as alcohol consumption and tobacco smoking can be controlled, the presence of ear hair cannot. High cholesterol and hypertension, both primary risk factors for heart disease can be treated with medicine, yet ear hair has no therapeutic treatment per say. Therefore its presence should be given attention and used as a useful screening tool for premature cardiac disease, especially in younger subsets of the population. In the meantime, those individuals expected to be at an increased risk of cardiac disease should look to more reliable risk factor markers such as the Framingham Heart Study.
- Tang, Yu-Rong, et al. “Studies of five microelement contents in human serum, hair, and fingernails correlated with aged hypertension and coronary heart disease.” Biological trace element research 92.2 (2003): 97-103.
- Verma, S. K., et al. “Ear-lobe crease and ear-canal hair as predictors of coronary artery disease in Indian population.” Indian heart journal 41.2 (1989): 86-91.
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- Heart Disease Mayo Clinic