How much attention do you pay to your earlobes? Probably not much. But it may be worth a look. There are numerous published studies beginning with a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine by Dr. Sanders Frank that support that a diagonal crease in your earlobe, known as Franks’s Sign, can be an indicator of Coronary Artery Disease (CAD). Dr. Frank’s study indicated that “having a crease running from the intertragic notch to the bottom of the ear lobe was more predictive of a heart problem than was blood pressure levels or blood cholesterol levels.” The researchers in one study that was published in British Heart Journal wrote, “We found a strong association between earlobe creases and a cardiovascular cause of death in men and women after age, height, and diabetes had been controlled for.”
Since heart disease is the number one killer of women in the US, it’s important to assess if you’re at risk. There are conventional measures for determining risk for heart disease, like blood pressure, cholesterol levels, weight, etc.. and this is just one more easy way to know your susceptibility. If you do have a creases in your lobe, don’t fret! Here are some easy ways to improve your heart health and prevent heart disease from happening too young.
The US Department of Health and Human Services Guide to Healthy Sleep, which is part of their Heart Health education tool kit, says that even getting 1 hour less sleep per night can negatively impact cardiovascular health. So, what does sleep have to do with our hearts? The USDHHS explains that sleep, on a most basic level, allows our hearts and circulatory systems time to rest. During non-REM sleep, your heart rate and blood pressure lower as you enter deeper sleep. During REM sleep, in response to dreams, your heart and breathing rates can rise and fall and your blood pressure can be variable. These variations in blood pressure and heart and breathing rates during the night seem to promote cardiovascular health. If we don’t get enough sleep, we may not experience the nightly dip in blood pressure that appears to be important for good cardiovascular health. A lack of sleep also puts your body under stress and may trigger the release of more adrenaline, cortisol, and other stress hormones during the day. These hormones keep your blood pressure from going down during sleep, which increases your risk for heart disease.
According to the USDHHS, lack of sleep also may trigger your body to produce more of certain proteins thought to play a role in heart disease. For example, some studies find that people who repeatedly don’t get enough sleep have higher than normal blood levels of C-reactive protein, which is a sign of inflammation. High levels of this protein may indicate an increased risk for a condition called atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.
Reduce Chronic Inflammation
According to both Johns Hopkins and Harvard Health, fighting inflammation can help fight heart disease. Inflammation is part of the body's natural response to protect itself against harm. There are two types of inflammation. The acute type occurs when you have an injury or infection. This is short-term reaction when the body rids itself of harmful intruders and repairs damaged cells. As I mentioned above in the Sleep More section, chronic inflammation is important to heart health because it plays a pivotal role in the development of atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty, cholesterol-rich plaque inside the arteries. Your body perceives this plaque as foreign, so it initiates an inflammatory response to contain the damage. Chemicals called cytokines draw white blood cells to the area to consume the cholesterol particles and to wall off the plaque from the flowing blood. But if that wall breaks down, the plaque may break loose and get into the bloodstream, forming a clot that can cause a heart attack or stroke.
There is research that supports that stress can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. In a 2017 study that was published in The Lancet, which is one of the world's most prestigious, and best known general medical journals, the researchers show that constant stress has been linked to higher activity in an area of the brain linked to processing emotions, and an increased likelihood of developing heart and circulatory disease. The researchers from Harvard University, suggested stress could be as important a risk factor as smoking or high blood pressure. The research looked at brain scans, and suggested that when you are stressed, an area of the brain that deals with stress sends signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells. The white blood cells cause the arteries to become inflamed. We already know that inflammation is involved in the process that leads to heart attacks, angina and strokes.
So, how do I sleep better, reduce inflammation and reduce my stress to contribute to my heart health? There is good news and bad news. Bad news first—all roads lead to those “healthy lifestyle changes”—exercise, eating well, etc., which contribute to sleeping better, reducing inflammation and reducing stress, which we also know contribute to heart health. While I am an advocate of making those healthy lifestyle changes and I try to have them as a part of my daily life in some form or fashion, I also know as well as anyone that it isn’t always easy to do. The good news? I rely on my herbal remedies to provide support to help me get quality sleep, reduce systemic inflammation and help me manage my stress. IN:DREAM, IN:MOTION and IN:PEACE all improve the quality of my life, and support my efforts to have a healthy heart. So, happy American heart month--move more, eat a little better, try a little meditation and try IN:DREAM, IN:MOTION and IN:PEACE. And don’t forget to check your earlobes! Your heart will be healthier for it!
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