Telltale signs of being past your prime, such as baldness and creased earlobes, may provide an early warning of heart disease, say scientists.

Researchers found that men and women who had three to four ageing signs were 57% more likely than younger looking individuals to suffer a heart attack. Their overall risk of heart disease was raised by 39%.

"The visible signs of ageing reflect physiologic or biological age, not chronological age, and are independent of chronological age," said lead scientist Professor Anne-Tybjaerg-Hansen, from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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  • Eyes

    Fatty deposits around the eyes were the strongest single predictor of both heart attack and heart disease.

  • Baldness

    Crown top baldness is a key sign of ageing.

  • Earlobes

    According to scientists, doctors should look out for creased earlobes.

  • Hairline

    A receding hairline could be a sign that heart problems may become a problem.

Her team studied almost 11,000 men and women aged 40 years and older noting four key signs of ageing - receding hairline, crown top baldness, earlobe creases, and yellow fatty deposits around the eyes.

Over the next 35 years, 3,401 of the participants developed heart disease and 1,708 suffered a heart attack.

Both individually and together, the ageing signs predicted heart attack and heart disease independently of traditional risk factors.

Fatty deposits around the eyes were the strongest single predictor of both heart attack and heart disease.

The risk of heart disease and heart attack increased with each additional sign of ageing, the scientists told the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions meeting in Los Angeles.

People in their 70s and with multiple signs of ageing were most at risk.

"Checking these visible ageing signs should be a routine part of every doctor's physical examination," said Prof Tybjaerg-Hansen.

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