Not only do you have to worry about hiding and dyeing those gray hairs, but a recent study presented at the European Society of Cardiology conference suggests that now you might also have to worry about an increased risk of heart disease.
Gray hair is typically seen in those who are older, and is therefore associated with aging. However, what many people do not realize is that premature hair graying is actually quite common and can be an early indicator of a male’s risk for atherosclerosis, the hardening of a person’s coronary arteries.
Researchers were able to link gray hair and heart disease because, according to the lead researchers of the study, “atherosclerosis and hair graying occur through similar biological pathways.” Although at first, you may think that gray hair clearly could be linked to heart disease simply because of age, and as you grow older you are more at risk for heart disease. However, researchers conducted a study that isolated chronological age, focusing purely on premature graying.
Enlisting 545 men, the researchers tested the men for heart disease then separated them into groups based on whether or not they had the disease, as well as the amount of graying present. To quantify the amount of gray hair, scientists used a scale listing from 1 (pure black) to 5 (pure white).
After careful analysis, they observed that the men who were ranked as a 3 or higher (peppered to pure white hair) had a greater risk of heart disease independent from family history, age, and other typical heart disease risk factors.
So, does this mean that if you have gray hair you’re going to have a heart attack soon? No, not at all. The study cautions that this should not be taken as an absolute cause-and effect. There are many other factors to consider and many other causes of graying hair. The lead authors even cite working with dermatologists to explore the environmental factors and how one’s surroundings could cause premature graying in hair. So don’t panic.
However, this is not to negate this study completely. Dr. Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, stated 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.” Therefore, this study is just the tip of the iceberg of creating a more accurate and reliable prediction for atherosclerosis.
Although the connection between the pigmentation of hair and heart disease may seem ridiculous at first, these recent findings are not completely unique. In fact, scientists have been investigating hair phenotypes for several years.
One past study, The International Journal of Trichology, released findings in 2013 linking premature graying of hair to autoimmune disorders in children in secondary school. They were able to conclude that there is a definite relation between graying hair and the lack of certain vitamins that are connected with autoimmune diseases like vitiligo, anemia, thyroid disease, and many more conditions.
All in all, this study simply is a stepping-stone to figuring out the mysterious genetic instructions and inner workings of our body through our hair color. Graying hair is not a guarantee of a heart attack, but it is an emerging predictor of dangerous heart disease.
Source: Bhat RM, Sharma R, Pinto AC, Dandekeri S, Martis J. Epidemiological and Investigative Study of Premature Graying of Hair in Higher Secondary and Pre-University School Children. International Journal of Trichology.