London: Want to know whether you are at risk of heart attack? Just check your eyelids, for a new study says that yellow markings in the skin around the eyes can be a sign of cardiovascular disease.

Researchers in Denmark have carried out the study of almost 13,000 people and found those with the patches, known as xanthelasmata, were more likely have a heart attack or die within 10 years, the 'British Medical Journal' reported.

The spots are deposits of cholesterol which are soft and painless. They don't interfere with vision and people often get them treated at a dermatologist, say the researchers.

The research team at the Herlev Hospital in Denmark started following 12,745 people in the 1970s. At the start of the study, 4.4 per cent of patients had xanthelasmata.

Thirty three years later, 1,872 had had a heart attack, 3,699 had developed heart disease and 8,507 had died – and the data showed that those with the yellow markings around the eyes were at greatest risk.

Those with the markings were 48 per cent more likely to have a heart attack, 39 per cent more likely to have developed heart disease and 14 per cent more likely to have died during the study.

The heart disease link was most acute in men aged between 70 and 79. Those with xanthelasmata were 12 per cent more at risk than others without the condition. The corresponding risk for women in this group was eight per cent.

However, the raised yellow patches around the eyelids was a more reliable sign of heart disease in women because of their lower overall risk.
Prof Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, of the University of Copenhagen, was quoted by the British media as saying, "The prevalence of xanthelasmata was similar in women and men.

"However, presence of xanthelasmata was a slightly better predictor of hear attack and heart disease in women than in men, and in those aged under 55 years compared with those aged 55 and over.

"This might be explained by the fact that male sex and age are both well known risk factors for heart attack and heart disease, so the presence of xanthelasmata just adds to this predetermined risk in men and in older people."

The researchers said that their results "clearly establish for the first time that people with xanthelasmata have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease".