We all know the 4-1-1 on what causes wrinkles: aging, sun damage, and a life full of laughter. But if your wrinkles could talk, they could reveal a lot more than whether or not you go in the sun. They can tell you about your overall health and wellbeing, and give you clues to future concerns.

First, a word about sugar

Sugar isn’t good for our waistline, but it turns out it’s also not good for our skin. Eating too much sugar causes glycation, a process by which sugar in your bloodstream attaches to proteins, forming what are called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). A Japanese study found that AGEs cause the collagen and elastin in skin to break down, creating wrinkles and creping. Yes, it seems sugar can cause wrinkles.

Of course you can’t eliminate sugar entirely from your food, so the American Heart Association recommends limiting foods with added sugars (that means packaged foods which contain sugars like fructose and lactose) to no more than half of your daily discretionary calories allowance. For most American women, that’s no more than 100 calories per day, or about six teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about nine teaspoons.

And a word about blood pressure

While having wrinkles hasn’t proven that you are prone to high blood pressure, scientists from Unilever and Leiden University Medical Center (LUMC) in the Netherlands found that women who look younger than their actual age tended to have lower blood pressure.

The reason? “We think higher blood pressure and higher perceived age may be associated because of a common underlying mechanism — both blood vessels and skin lose elasticity with age. In case of blood vessels, loss of elasticity will lead to higher blood pressure. In case of skin, loss of elasticity will cause sagging, resulting in a higher perceived age,” explains Diana van Heemst, Ph.D., associate professor at the department of Geriatric Medicine at LUMC. 

If you have high blood pressure, talk to your doctor about incorporating yoga, meditation, and other forms of exercise into your day to lower blood pressure.

Wrinkles could mean: Increased risk for heart disease

Have you studied your earlobes lately? If your earlobes have a diagonal wrinkle or crease, listen up. Studies have shown a correlation between a diagonal crease down your earlobes and coronary artery disease.

No one knows for sure why this is. There are two theories: 1) The fact that heart muscle and the ear lobe are supplied by the same genetically originated material and thus share a common final pathway. 2) The ear crease is skin atrophy caused by vascular disease.

While there is no data on the prevalence of the crease, according to Haim Shmilovich M.D., corresponding study author of one of the studies, Division of Cardiology, Tel Aviv Medical Center, Israel, “Our study showed a test accuracy of 67%, meaning that, in a general way of speaking, if you have this sign, you have a 67% chance of having coronary artery disease.”

Wrinkles could mean: Brittle bones

Yale University School of Medicine study proved a link between wrinkle severity and bone mineral density in menopausal women. “Skin and bones share common building blocks/proteins, and aging is accompanied by changes in skin and deterioration of bone quantity and quality,” Lubna Pal, M.D., has been quoted as saying. “We found that deepening and worsening skin wrinkles are related to lower bone density among the study participants. The worse the wrinkles, the lesser the bone density, and this relationship was independent of age or of factors known to influence bone mass.” If your wrinkles seem to be getting worse, ask your physician for a bone density screen.

Remedy: Get more sleep

If you are staying up too late, your face is going to give you away. A research team at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden found that sleep deprivation was associated with paler skin, more wrinkles or fine lines, and droopier corners of the mouth. If you are part of the almost 30% of adults in the U.S. who, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, don’t get enough sleep, you know what you have to do: Shut down the computer, turn off the smartphone, say goodnight to Jon Stewart, and go to bed!

Remedy: Eat more fruits and veggies

Your face will thank you for it. A German study showed that eating lots of carotenoids increased the concentration of this powerful antioxidant in your skin. Its anti-inflammatory properties promoted fewer wrinkles and furrows. Up your intake of red, green and orange fruits and vegetables (carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, leafy greens, red peppers, squash, pumpkin, peas, cantaloupes, dried apricots and broccoli).

Remedy: Stop smoking

If you need one more reason to quit cigarettes, consider this: According to the Mayo Clinic, smoking speeds up the aging process of the skin, causing wrinkles not just on your face but all over your body. The more you smoke, the more skin damage you cause. Nicotine narrows the blood vessels in the topmost layer of your skin, restricting blood flow, oxygen, and important nutrients. Also, chemicals in tobacco smoke damage the collagen and elastin in your skin.

Check your arms

Check the upper inner section of you arms, below the armpit (a place less likely to have wrinkling due to sun exposure). See any wrinkling there? In the same study conducted by scientists from Unilever and Leiden University Medical Center, Netherlands, people who came from long-lived families had less skin wrinkling on their upper arms. “We believe this is because of their better genes,” says Dr. van Heemst.

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