The grayer his hair, the higher his heart risk?

In terms of risk factors, atherosclerosis-the buildup of plaque in your arteries-and hair graying both involve impaired DNA fix, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal changes and senescence, or deterioration, of functional cells.

In a 2013 study, published in Circulation, Danish researchers found people with four signs of aging, including receding hairline at the temples, baldness at the head's crown, earlobe crease, and yellow fatty deposits around the eyelid, were about 60 percent more likely to have a heart attack, and about 40 percent more likely to develop heart disease over a 35-year period.

This was a prospective, observational study that included 545 adult men who underwent multislice computed tomography (CT) coronary angiography for suspected coronary artery disease.

The participants - ranging in age from 42 to 64 - were then divided into five groups based on the degree to which their hair had grayed. Since the study was done in Egypt, the men had started with dark hair, and 1 indicated pure black hair, while 5 meant their hair was entirely gray or white. Each participant was assessed by two independent observers and received a hair whitening score.

They observed that those with a score of 3 or more, indicating high hair whitening, was linked with a greater risk of atherosclerosis - even after considering each participant's age and traditional heart disease risk factors. Those with coronary artery disease had a higher hair whitening score and higher coronary artery calcification compared to those that did not have coronary artery disease, according to News 18.

In the study, the scientists examined the occurrence of gray hair in men diagnosed with coronary artery disease that is caused by atherosclerosis.

As if going grey was not worrying enough, now comes the unwelcome news that it is linked to heart disease.

An old proverb states that "grey hair is a sign of age, not a sign of wisdom".

"Atherosclerosis and hair graying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age", said Dr. Samuel.

Dr Samuel said asymptomatic patients at high risk of coronary artery disease should have regular check-ups to avoid early cardiac events by initiating preventive therapy. Additional research in coordination with dermatologists is necessary to glean more information about the causative genetic and environmental variables that determine hair greying.

The authors acknowledged that more research is needed to confirm this association with hair graying, involving dermatology experts and a study population that includes women.

Dr. Samuel concluded that "if our findings are confirmed, standardization of the scoring system for evaluation of hair greying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease".

  • Joanne Flowers