Women with low blood pressure look younger than their hypertensive counterparts.

Women who look young for their age tend to have lower blood pressure, reducing their risk of cardiovascular problems like heart attacks and strokes, according to new research published in the Journals of Gerontology.

The researchers said that since facial appearance can be readily quantified and skin tissue easily accessed, they could be valuable tools for determining how biological mechanisms influence tissue degeneration with age and, consequently, human health and lifespan.

Their study involved 514 adults with an average age of 63. They compared the amount of skin wrinkling on a sun-protected site (upper inner arm) and the facial appearance of 261 offspring of nonagenarian (90 years, or between 90 and 100 years old) siblings with 253 age-matched controls. All participants had no reported history of disease. They then examined whether any appearance features that significantly associated with familial longevity correlated with the Framingham cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk score. All analyses were adjusted for chronological age, smoking, photodamage, and body mass index.

Results showed that female and male offspring had reduced upper inner arm skin wrinkling and the male offspring looked 1.4 years younger than the controls. Women in the lowest quartile of CVD risk looked more than 2 years younger for their age than those in higher risk quartiles. Systolic blood pressure was the most significant CVD risk factor that was associated with perceived age in women.
They concluded that facial appearance and skin wrinkling at a sun-protected site reflect the propensity to reach an extreme old age, and facial appearance reflects the risk of succumbing to CVD independently of chronological age, smoking, photodamage, and BMI.

Lead author Dr. David Gunn, a senior scientist with Unilever, said: “We identified that blood pressure was driving the link between cardiovascular disease risk and perceived age. It is the first time a link between low blood pressure and youthful looks has been proven. This finding gives rise to new ways to communicate the significant additional benefits of a healthy lifestyle.”

Gunn said they also found that the feature in the face that blood pressure was linked to was not skin wrinkles, but facial skin sag. He added that “the exciting thing is further investigations will enable exact pin-pointing of the feature in the face that signposts an individual’s blood pressure.”

 

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