Five lesser-known, but important heart disease risk factors

As I discussed on Tuesday, science has shown that most of the mainstream’s favorite targets—such as cholesterol, fats, salt, smoking, and alcohol—do not increase heart disease risk. In addition, when it comes to some of the real risk factors—such as high blood pressure and high blood sugar—there is more wiggle room than typically thought. Especially for older people.

So, today, let’s look at five lesser-known, but equally important risk factors you should know about and bring up with your doctor.

Five lesser-known heart disease risk factors

1.) Do you have earlobe creases? Few people (including doctors) think about earlobe creases as a risk factor for heart disease. But they should!

It turns out, having a diagonal crease in your lower earlobe, extending downward at a 45-degree angle—called “Frank’s sign”— may indicate a possible increased risk of heart disease.

Image source: Cureus, 10(1), e2080.


I first learned about this telling sign when I worked at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) during the mid-1980s. I collaborated with Dr. Nicholas Petrakis at the University of California, San Francisco, (UCSF) who was studying Frank’s sign in men as an indicator for heart disease…and breast fluid and ear wax in women as an indicator for breast disease. Nick felt practitioners could use these simple indictors to help screen for heart disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases.

Sadly, the higher-ups at NIH and UCSF didn’t have any real interest in these “low-tech” approaches to disease prevention. In fact, I remember going to see Nick in San Francisco, and he was being pushed out of his office to make way for new, costly high-tech research instruments. He was getting ready to retire anyway—and it left his important research on the cutting room floor, so to speak, for decades to come.

Thankfully, I’m now seeing some younger researchers starting to rediscover the importance of simple assessments like Frank’s sign. (Which I’ll always think of it as “Nick’s” sign.)

2.) If you’re a woman, did you have a complicated pregnancy? Research shows that women in their 50s or older who experienced complications during pregnancy, earlier in life, may be at increased risk for developing heart disease.

In fact, the condition of pre-eclampsia (abnormally high blood pressure during pregnancy) and/or gestational diabetes (abnormally high blood sugar during pregnancy) may double the risk of heart disease for women compared to those who had normal, problem-free pregnancies. Now, the nine months of pregnancy does put a lot of stress a woman’s body as a whole. But, especially if you’re a woman who had a complicated pregnancy, be sure to tell your doctor.

3.) Do you have arthritis? It may surprise you to learn that people with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or even the more common osteoarthritis (OA), run higher risks of developing heart disease. But it makes a lot of sense, as chronic inflammation is the culprit behind both types of arthritis and heart disease (as well as other chronic diseases).

Of course, RA is an autoimmune disorder, which has already been associated with inflammatory diseases of the cardiovascular system. And the more common degenerative OA is often associated with excessive exercise—such as running on artificial hard surfaces. (Yet another reason I recommend staying away from this type of excess-ercise.)

Years ago, I recognized that reducing inflammation is the key to curing joint disease, as it allows joint cartilage to repair itself naturally. I also found that taking three natural plants extracts together—ashwagandha, boswellia, and curcumin—works wonders in just weeks. I call them the “ABCs of joint health.”

Plus, as I mentioned on Tuesday, engaging in moderate exercise can also help reduce inflammation, joint problems, and heart disease risk. So—aim to spend just 2.5 hours a week engaging in activities like yardwork, housework, or walking.

4.) Are you a nighttime snacker? You probably know about the possible connection between late-night snacking and weight gain. But eating late at night may also affect your heart.

In fact, a new study found that women who ate more after 6 PM had poorer heart health compared to those who ate nothing during the evening hours. Specifically, for each 1 percent increase in calories consumed after 6 PM, there were increases in blood pressure, blood sugar, and body weight.

Of course, eating and drinking later in the day can also contribute to poor sleep quality. Speaking of which, I’m always reminded of an old saying my French grandparents and mother used to say to me before bedtime, Qui dort, dine. Which roughly translates to he who sleeps forgets his hunger. And I always took it to mean I didn’t need to eat right before bedtime—when it’s time to sleep.

5.) Do you take medications in the morning? Believe it or not, researchers are starting to realize that the time of day when you take your medications may affect your heart disease risk.

In fact, researchers recently followed nearly 19,000 men and women, with an average age of 60 years, who were taking blood pressure drugs. Over a six-year period, those who took their medications at bedtime, instead of in the morning, had better blood pressure readings and lower risks of heart disease and stroke. The researchers don’t yet fully understand why taking medications in the evenings proved superior to taking them in the morning. But it’s certainly something to keep in mind and speak about with your doctor.

Take steps now to reduce your risks

Now, as I mentioned on Tuesday, even if you have any of these risk factors, the human body is amazingly resilient and routinely repairs itself. So, no matter what your age, you can stay completely free of heart disease by making some simple lifestyle changes…such as forgoing late-night snacking, getting some moderate exercise, and taking any meds in the evening, instead of in the morning.

For more insight into natural ways to protect your heart as you get older, I encourage you to check out my Heart Attack Prevention and Repair Protocol. This innovative, online learning tool outlines the natural, heart-healing pathway to low blood pressure, a stroke-free brain, and never taking a dangerous heart medication again. To learn more, or to enroll today, click here now!

P.S. To learn all about the common and lesser-known risk factors (and what you can do to reverse them), check out the current September 2020 issue of my Insiders’ Cures newsletter (“Nine simple, effective ways to safeguard your heart”). If you’re not yet a subscriber, now is the perfect time to get started.


“Evening eating linked to poorer heart health for women.” Science Daily, 11/11/19. (

“Future risk of cardiovascular disease risk factors and events in women after a hypertensive disorder of pregnancy.” Heart 2019;105:1273-1278.

“Your Heart, Lungs + Circulation,” AARP: The Magazine, April/May 2020: 40-44.

“A Myth Still Needs to be Clarified: A Case Report of the Frank’s Sign. Cureus. 2018;10(1):e2080. Published 2018 Jan 17. doi:10.7759/cureus.2080