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‘Selfies’ may help doctors detect heart disease

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Coronary artery disease is associated with certain facial features, a new study suggests. 

Researchers from China assessed photographs of 5,796 participants with coronary artery disease (CAD) from eight sites across the country by developing a modeling tool to predict the strength of the relationship between parts of the face and CAD. They studied seven parts of the face including the forehead, cheeks, nose, eyes, mouth, ears and chin. 

The paper was published in the latest issue of European Heart Journal. 

Results showed cheeks, forehead and nose characteristics had a greater correlation with CAD, but since the model is still in development and more research is needed, it’s not exactly clear what specifically made these features stand out. However, it’s speculated that deep wrinkles in the forehead and a reddish, purple-like discoloration in the cheeks are possibilities.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop a self-reported application for high-risk communities to assess heart disease risk in advance of visiting a clinic,” Zhe Zheng, MD, PhD and lead study author said in a news release. “This could be a cheap, simple and effective way to identify patients who need further investigation.

Previous research found male pattern baldness, a diagonal ear crease and yellow, raised cholesterol deposits typically found around the eyes–a condition called xanthelasma–are also linked with CAD. 

Coronary artery disease, also known as coronary heart disease or ischemic heart disease, is one of many types of heart disease.

Concentrations of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in the blood build up against the walls of the arteries of the heart, narrowing them and subsequently blocking oxygen from getting to the organ. The build-up process is referred to as atherosclerosis

Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease. Approximately 18.2 million people aged 20 years and older have CAD in the United States. Heart disease–although not specific to CAD–is the number one killer in Indiana.

News 8’s medical reporter, Dr. Mary Elizabeth Gillis, D.Ed., is a classically trained medical physiologist and biobehavioral research scientist. She has been a health, medical and science reporter for over 5 years. Her work has been featured in national media outlets. You can follow her on Instagram @reportergillis and Facebook @DrMaryGillis.

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