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Monday, 22 October, 2001, 07:35 GMT 08:35 UK
Finger length heart attack clue
Hands
A long ring finger may be good news
The length of a young boy's finger may provide a clue as to whether he will be at risk of a heart attack in early adulthood.

Scientists at Liverpool University have established a link between the length of baby boys' fingers and their chances of going on to have a heart attack at an unusually young age.

They believe the link could provide doctors with a simple way to to spot potential heart disease victims at a very early age.


The longer your ring finger, the more protected you are against heart attack

Dr John Manning
The research shows that boys with shorter ring fingers tend to be at greatest risk.

This is because these boys tend to have lower levels of the male sex hormone testosterone, which is known to protect against heart attack.

The genes that are indirectly responsible for the production of testosterone and the female hormone oestrogen also control the development of the fingers.

Relatively long

Finger measurement
Divide the length of your index finger by the length of your ring finger to give the ratio
For the average male in Britain, this figure is about 0.97
Below 0.9 an individual is unlikely to have a heart attack early in life. Above 1.00 the risk climbs
Lead researcher Dr John Manning told the BBC: "Males tend to have a relatively longer ring finger compared to the index finger than females.

"This is a very early trait and it is under the influence of sex hormones.

"For a man, the ring finger tends to be about 2% longer than the index finger. The longer your ring finger, the more protected you are against heart attack, because the more testosterone you have.

"There is a relationship between the ratio between these two finger lengths and the age at heart attack of people who do have heart attacks."

The ratio between the two fingers remains the same throughout life.

Short ring fingers did not necessarily mean that boys would go on to have heart attacks, but should alert their parents to do what they can to lessen the risk.

Dr Manning said: "This is an indicator of risk independent of things like smoking and diet, so you can adjust your diet and stop smoking and so on, if you are in a high-risk group."

Dr Manning and Dr Peter Bundred examined 151 male heart attack victims in Merseyside.

They found the age range for heart attacks in men where the index finger was relatively long was 35 to 80 years of age, but in those with relatively long ring fingers it was 58 to 80.

Dr Manning has previously uncovered links between finger-length and vulnerability to depression and sporting ability.

The research is to be published in the British Journal of Cardiology.

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 ON THIS STORY
Dr John Manning
"There is a relationship between finger lengths and the age at heart attack"
See also:

22 Aug 01 | Health
Weekend heart risk for young men
15 Mar 01 | Health
Obsessives risk heart attacks
17 Aug 01 | Health
New test for heart attack damage
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