Earlobes and Erections - Whats the Connection?

Earlobe Creases and Erections: What's The Connection?

Have you ever noticed that some men (and women) have diagonal wrinkles in their earlobes? Did you know that this is an important biomarker relating to heart disease?  Earlobe creases or what in medicine is known as “Franks sign” were first described in 1973 after a physician called Sanders Frank noticed a correlation in 20 of his patients between earlobe creases and confirmed diagnoses of coronary artery blockages (1).

After the initial letter was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a number of other reports from doctors began pouring in reporting that among patients who had suffered heart attacks, it was more common than in the general population to have earlobe creases.  Studies began to be funded and it was discovered that not only are earlobe creases correlated to risk of heart attacks, but that men with earlobe creases were almost twice as likely to have coronary disease.  The largest study on the topic to date, looked at 11,000 Danish men who were followed for 35 years. Again the study found that having earlobe creases was significantly associated with having clinically significant heart disease, and that the chance of having a heart attack or ST segment elevation myocardial infarction, was higher in people with earlobe creases even after accounting for other well established cardiovascular risk factors (2).

How and Why?

While the jury is still out on exactly why earlobe creases are associated with heart disease there are two main theories. Firstly, the small capillaries that provide blood flow to your organs and tissues are often the first to be damaged by high blood pressure and calcification.

Damage to capillaries in the earlobes may result in the skin being less well supplied by nutrients and oxygen resulting in wrinkling.  When it occurs in the skin, it may simply be unsightly, but when it occurs in say the kidneys or the vessels providing oxygenated blood to the heart, the results may be much more dire.  Other studies suggest that excessive tissue damage by inflammation and oxidation (poor diet, smoking, environmental toxicant exposure etc), which result in intracellular aging significantly degrade the body’s elastic tissue and can be seen as earlobe creases on the outside of the body.  

Trouble Below Deck...

Another not so hard way to determine your heart disease risk is, um, your ability to get hard.  Erectile dysfunction is a strong marker of cardiovascular disease, indicating reduced blood flow and trouble with nitric oxide synthesis.  Dysfunction of the inner lining of blood vessels (known as the endothelium) and smooth muscle in vessels means that they cannot adequately accommodate changes in pressure in order to supply oxygenated blood to the heart (and penis) which contributes to the the development of atherosclerosis.  Nerves, testosterone levels and stress also play a part of course,  but if you have trouble in the bedroom, earlobe creases, family history of heart disease or other visible signs of aging (most notably receding hairline or fatty deposits on your eyelids)  get to your doctor ASAP.

But my doctor says my cholesterol is normal…

Remind him that among those who have heart attacks, 75% have perfectly normal cholesterol levels (3).  Cholesterol screening alone is NOT enough to determine your risk of heart disease (and statins are NOT enough to prevent heart attacks).  Ask your doctor about cholesterol fraction testing, inflammatory markers, and carotid artery doppler ultrasound as a start.  If your doctor is not familiar with these, time for a new one.  Heart disease is STILL the number one killer of men and women in the developed world; cholesterol screening or driving down cholesterol with statin drugs have not been the miracle assessment and cure they were promoted as.

The Good News

The research clearly shows that altering a few basic lifestyle factors profoundly impacts heart disease risk.  

The “EPIC” study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine studied 23,000 people’s adherence to 4 simple behaviors.  These included not smoking cigarettes, moderate exercise totaling 3.5 hours per week, eating a diet composed mainly of fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and limited meat and keeping their BMI under 30.   By simply following those guidelines and keeping one's body weight in that range, study participants prevented 93% of diabetes cases, 81% of heart attacks, 50% of strokes and 36% of all cancers diagnoses !

Another case controlled study published in Lancet 2004, followed 30,000 men and women, and determined that by simply altering lifestyle behaviors (diet, smoking, exercise and weight) they could prevent at least 90% of all heart disease (5).

The bottom line is that simple lifestyle modifications yield huge results - so get off your butt, eat your veggies and get help to quit smoking, if not for your heart, for your d*ck.

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25846355
2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24334176
3. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/majority-of-hospitalized-heart-75668
4. http://archinte.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=225342
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15364185

Vanessa Ingraham