Gray hair is often linked to wisdom, but a new study reveals that going gray may be a sign of heart disease.
As hair whitens, there may be an increase in artery damage, inflammation and other health risks that generally indicate the onset of heart disease.
The University of Cairo conducted a study in which 545 men were separated into groups based on their hair color. The health of their arteries was taken into account, as well as the degree to which their hair had whitened.
The grayness of their hair was ranked on a scale of one to five. A score of one indicated that the man had pure black hair; two was black more than white; three meant that there were equal parts black and white; four was white more than black; five was pure white.
When the men had a ‘hair whitening score’ of three or more, they were more likely to have damaged arteries and high blood pressure. In addition, these men were more likely to store excess abdominal fat, which is an indicator of heart disease as well. The Florida Atlantic University found that having greater levels of belly fat increased risk of heart disease by up to 18 percent, and now the graying of hair can be a visual indicator as well.
“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk,” said Dr. Irini Samuel, the main author of the study. The correlation, according to the author, is due to the fact that the graying of hair and disease of the arteries occurs in the same biological pathways. Therefore, when one happens, the other may soon follow.
Important to note is that graying hair is something that commonly occurs as a person ages. In the same way, risk of heart disease increases with age. However, the study divided the men into groups regardless of age, showing that premature graying can be an early indicator of heart disease risk. As this study was conducted only on male participants, Samuel requests that further research be done to include women as well.
“A larger study including men and women is required to confirm the association between hair greying and cardiovascular disease in patients without other known cardiovascular risk factors… If our findings are confirmed, standardisation of the scoring system for evaluation of hair greying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease,” stated Samuel.
Samuel presented the findings at EuroPrevent 2017, a congress of the European Society of Cardiology. She and the other researchers in this study hope that a scale measuring the whiteness of a person’s hair can be used as a visual indicator of heart disease as a standard for cardiologists.
Heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the United States, and early action can be the key to preventing its development. It is important to visit a physician regularly for check ups and maintain a healthy lifestyle to prevent the onset of heart disease.