Heart Disease and Profiling

 

Which person has heart disease?

Who has heart disease?

I am addicted to the suspense and escapades of the CBS Show “Criminal Minds.”

I am in awe of criminal profiling.  I marvel at how the agents perform the physical and character analysis in tracking the perpetrator, only to arrest them before they strike again.  It leaves you on the edge of your seat!  I love all the powerful characters and the drama. My all-time favorite characters are the computer geek and hacker, Penelope Garcia (Kirsten Vangsness) and the genius Dr. Spencer Reid (Matthew Gray Hubler) who is an expert on everything with an IQ of 187.

The BAU (Behavioral Analysis Unit) can form a complete profile of the offender in less than 30 minutes.  It is downright uncanny how the criminal psychologists come up with a personality profile of a criminal whose identity is unknown. Profiles, they believe fit the suspect, sound  something similar to: The “unsub” (short for unknown subject or suspect) appears to be a white male in his early twenties due to his youthful arrogance and has detailed knowledge of law enforcement techniques.  The “unsub” is believed to be a sadist, who enjoys watching people in pain.

This term “profiling” intrigues me.

Profiling appears to be about the science of people and how they behave as well as some of their physical characteristics.

Could we “profile” a patient with heart disease?

I thought it would be an insightful exercise to attempt to “profile” a person with heart disease using our keen observation skills along with profiling techniques.

I believe that the average person would stereotypically profile an individual with heart disease as a red-faced, overweight, inactive, smoking male with a driven personality and a stubborn and unyielding desire to never give up.  What do you think?

This pigeon-hole categorization would be one our biggest misconceptions.  Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women.  Perhaps this image is formed because, truly, more men die of coronary heart disease than women according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

However, ultimately more women die of ALL FORMS of cardiovascular disease than men.  The American Heart Association states:  “Since 1984, the number of CVD deaths for females has exceeded those for males.”  One out of every four women will die of coronary artery disease and one out of two will die of cardiovascular disease.

Let’s begin profiling a patient with heart disease.  According to a publication  by Thomas E. Vanhecke, MD a  patient with heart disease has definite physical traits.

Heart Disease and Male Baldness

Balding men do have, indeed, higher rates of coronary heart disease than those with hair. It appears that men balding at the top or crown of their head had a much more increased risk of coronary heart disease than those with frontal balding.  The British Medical Journal  reported that the risk of heart disease climbs to 9 percent in those just beginning to lose hair on the front of their heads compared to those without any hair loss. When a bald spot appears on the crown of the head, relative risk jumps to 23 percent. When all hair is gone from the top of the head, the risk rises to a troublesome 36 percent.

In relation to women and hair loss, WebMD reports:

“The biological link between hair loss and heart disease could involve elevated levels of male hormones, says Manson, an endocrinologist and chief of preventive medicine at Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. The scalp has a higher density of male-hormone receptors, and high levels of hormones such as testosterone are associated with an increased risk of hardening of the arteries and blood clotting. Although this study did not include women, Manson says that true male-pattern baldness in women, which is associated with an increase in male hormones, has been linked to an increased risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol, all of which raise the risk of heart disease. She cautions, however, that this finding has not been well studied”.

Heart Disease and Height

Heart disease appears to affect shorter people more than their taller counterparts.

These findings were published in the European Heart Journal in 2010 and reported that a review of 52 studies involving over 3 million men and women found that shorter people have a 50 percent higher risk of developing heart disease than taller individuals.

The American Journal of Epidemiology reported on a 2006 study found identical twins who died from coronary artery disease tended to be the shorter than their co-twins, suggesting the height-heart disease link arises from environmental factors that affect both height and heart disease risk rather than genetics.

It is known that short individuals gain weight more easily and are more apt to develop diabetes, both of which are established risk factors in heart disease.

Heart Disease and Ear Lobes

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine  reported that a diagonal earlobe crease was a potential indicator of coronary artery disease (CAD). This crease was later christened “Frank’s sign,” after the primary author of the study, Dr. Sanders T. Frank. A “normal” earlobe is smooth and an earlobe with a crease has a fold, straight line, or wrinkle that appears to cut the earlobe in half.

The publication further explains: “Frank’s sign” is thought to indicate premature aging and loss of dermal and vascular elastic fibers. Although it has limited sensitivity, the sign is more useful diagnostically in persons younger than 60 years of age than in older persons.”

Heart Disease and “Bumps” on the Achilles Tendon and Elbows

It appears that these “bumps” may be deposits of plaque found in people with very high cholesterol levels.  The Encyclopedia of Heart Disease some individuals have an inherited condition or genetic defect that does not allow their body to get rid of cholesterol.  These individuals develop cholesterol-containing lumps and bumps on their knees, elbows, tendons of wrist and Achilles’s tendon.

Heart Disease and Eye Color

Eye color itself, is not linked to heart disease.  But, if your eye has a light grey ring around the cornea (the colored circle in your eye), you may have a condition called arcus senilis, which is linked to high cholesterol and high triglycerides, making you at higher risk for heart disease.

Heart Disease and Poor Dental Hygiene

Harvard Heart Publications summarizes this:  “In people with periodontitis (erosion of tissue and bone that support the teeth), chewing and tooth brushing release bacteria into the bloodstream. Several species of bacteria that cause periodontitis have been found in the atherosclerotic plaque in arteries in the heart and elsewhere. This plaque can lead to heart attack.

Oral bacteria could also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins that resemble proteins found in artery walls or the bloodstream. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. It is also possible that inflammation in the mouth revs up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to heart attack and stroke.”

Although researchers debate the issue or whether poor oral hygiene is a cause of heart attacks or just a signal of poor overall health, it is known that the bacteria that reside in the mouth can cause infections in individuals with heart valve disorders.

Heart Disease and Waist Size, Neck Size and Body Weight

This correlation is a no-brainer.  Being overweight is one of the strongest risk factors for heart disease.

Our body is made of fat and lean mass. Fat can be subcutaneous, that is lying directly under the skin, or visceral, being stored deep in the abdominal cavity. Lean body mass includes everything else in your body like bones, muscles, organs and water.  Our body requires some fat for normal everyday function but too much causes fat storage and problems.  It is known that fat stored in the upper body as in the neck and waist is more dangerous than fat stored below the waist.  A simple way to calculate this is to estimate neck and waist body fat by body circumference.

Clinical Nutrition reports on a simple way to estimate your visceral fat is to measure your waist circumference. Healthy men should strive for a waist measurement of 37 inches or less, while healthy women should try to keep their waistline at 32 inches or less.

The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, showed a stronger relationship between risk factors and neck circumference in women than in men. It also found that individuals with both a larger neck circumference and a larger waistline were the most at risk. Healthy men should aim for a neck size around 16 inches and healthy women should aim for about 13 inches.

Heart Disease and Finger Length

The British Journal of Cardiology published a study that showed “that men with ring fingers the same length or only slightly longer than their index fingers have a higher risk of heart attacks in their thirties and forties than men with ring fingers much longer than their index fingers.”  The reasoning deduction is related to testosterone levels, which is responsible for lengthening ring fingers, protecting against heart disease.

Dr. John Manning, lead researcher states:  “The longer your ring finger, the more protected you are against heart attack.”  Men tend to have a relatively longer ring finger compared to the index finger than females due to the sex hormone, testosterone.

There appears to be a relationship between the ratio between these two finger lengths and the age at heart attack of people who do have heart attacks.

The two fingers that are key are the index finger — the one you use to point to something — and the ring finger. Here is his formula for finger measurement: “Divide the length of your index finger by the length of your ring finger to give the ratio.  For the average male in Britain, this figure is about 0.97.  Below 0.9 an individual is unlikely to have a heart attack early in life. Above 1.00 and the risk climbs.”

Heart Disease and Personality

Wikipedia explains Type A personality and its relationship to heart disease.  It is defined “as ambitious, rigidly organized, highly status-conscious, sensitive, truthful, impatient, always try to help others, take on more than they can handle, want other people to get to the point, proactive, and obsessed with time management.  People with Type A personalities are often high-achieving “workaholics” who multi-task, push themselves with deadlines, and hate both delays and ambivalence.

Although Type A personality is associated with the incidence of coronary heart disease, it did not appear to be a risk factor for mortality.
Heart Disease and Geographic Location

A recent report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC)  shows some contrasting regional differences in the prevalence of heart disease. Hawaii has the lowest rate, with 3.7 percent of the island state’s citizens saying they’ve been diagnosed with some form of heart disease.  The #1 state for the #1 killer in the U.S.is Kentucky with 8.2 percent of the population diagnosed with heart disease.  Some of the other top states include:  West Virginia (8 %), Louisiana (7.8 %), Oklahoma (7.6 %), and Alabama with .4 percent.

Cardiovascular Profile

There is actually a term known as “cardiovascular profile”  which includes some of the more obvious risk factors for heart disease.  The incidence of heart disease increases with advancing age.  A leading cause of premature death in the U. S. is smoking.  If you have a first degree relative (father, mother, brother, sister) with heart disease, your risk increases.  High cholesterol and high blood pressure is a primary cause of heart disease.

I am certain the Behavioral Analysis Unit at Criminal Minds would have this case solved at this point in the show.

The BAU team would be gathered in the conference room, discussing the case in a most serious demeanor.  We would hear:  “The “unsub” with heart disease is an older, short, balding, most likely female with an ear lobe crease. She/he has tiny lumps and bumps on their knees, elbows, and Achilles’s tendon.  The “unsub’s” ring finger is shorter, the same length or only slightly longer than the index finger.  This individual is a workaholic who multi-tasks and is impatient and rigidly organized and most likely resides in Kentucky!”

Have you given some thought to the idea that you may be at risk for heart disease?

Have you been studying the group of people at the top of the page?

So, who is the person with heart disease in the above photo?

Do you know which individuals are at risk?

The fact of the matter is:  WE ARE ALL AT RISK FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE.  No person’s risk is zero.

You need to take an active role to remain healthy and free of heart disease.  You need to focus on the things that you can control to lower your risk  for heart disease.

“Know your numbers” such as cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and talk to your doctor about your personal risk.

Listen to your body.  Quit smoking.  Become active.  Eat a rainbow every day.  Attempt to reduce stress in your life.  Try yoga and meditation.  Smile.  Laugh.  Live life well.

Please take care of your heart. 

Please bear in mind that thisoldheartblog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice.  You need to always seek the advice of your physician or healthcare provided regarding any diagnosis, cure, treatment or prevention of any disease or medical condition.  

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8 Comments on “Heart Disease and Profiling

  1. I have slight creases in each ear. Fortunately I have never smoked, I eat healthy and exercise usually 4 to 5 days a week.

  2. Well put
    “The fact of the matter is: WE ARE ALL AT RISK FOR CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE. No person’s risk is zero.”

    Great article and great blog

    Thomas Vanhecke, MD

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog as well as your kind words. Yes, we are all at risk and we all need to take heed and take care of our hearts.

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