Harvard Heart Letter

Ask the doctor: Is earwax connected to heart disease?

Q. I heard somewhere that the type of earwax you have is linked to your risk of heart disease. Can that be true?

A. One part of that "connection" is correct — humans have different types of earwax, also known as cerumen (suh-ROO-men). Wet earwax, which is brownish and sticky, contains about 50% fat and 20% protein. Dry earwax, which is gray and flaky, contains 18% fat and 43% protein. The type of earwax a person has is genetically determined.

In the early 1960s, one small study demonstrated a connection between wet earwax and atherosclerosis. In 1993, Lithuanian researchers found that people with wet earwax were more likely to have higher levels of apolipoprotein B, a protein that travels with particles of LDL (bad) cholesterol, while those with dry earwax were more likely to live longer. These data aren't nearly enough to be "a connection."

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