The Hidden Health Risk Facing Men Who Are Going Grey

Kirsten Curtis |

Deciding whether or not to colour may not be your biggest concern. – By Elizabeth Millard

Like taxes and Facebook arguments, gray hair is inevitable. But this all-too-common sign of aging may be a tip-off for something far more serious than advancing age: heart disease.

In research presented at EuroPrevent 2017, a conference hosted by the European Society of Cardiology, scientists discovered that the more gray hair a man had, the more likely he was to have coronary artery disease, the most common form of heart disease that occurs when arteries to the heart narrow and harden due to plaque buildup. This gray hair-heart disease link was independent of chronological age and other established cardiovascular risk factors.

According to the study, men with a higher “hair whitening score”—meaning a higher ratio of white hair to their prior colour—were 31 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease. Also, those with existing coronary heart disease were observed to have significantly more gray hair in the research than those who didn’t.

Although it may seem like an odd correlation, there may be physiological mechanisms that affect both graying hair and struggling hearts.

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

Of course, that doesn’t mean every man with gray hair (which would, eventually, be every man) will experience heart issues. But researcher Irini Samuel, M.D., a cardiologist at Cairo University, did say in the press release that aging is an “unavoidable coronary risk factor,” and that associated outward, dermatological signs such as gray hair could signal increased risk.

Samuel noted that more research is needed to determine if the association is widespread—if it is, she believes that it may allow doctors to intervene earlier in the cardiovascular disease process.

For now, your best bet may be get regular checkups if you’ve started going gray, even if you have no other symptoms.

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