If you’ve got grey hair, it could mean you also have an increased risk of heart disease.
The study of more than 500 men found that those with the whitest hair had the most increased risk of coronary artery disease, independent of chronological age and established cardiovascular risk factors.
According to the researchers, from Cairo University, atherosclerosis (a disease of the arteries linked to heart disease) and hair greying share similar mechanisms.
These include impaired DNA repair, inflammation, hormonal changes and the age deterioration of functional cells.
The study assessed the prevalence of grey hair in patients with and without coronary artery disease and whether it was an independent risk marker of disease.
To draw their conclusions, researchers looked into potential links between greying hair and heart disease in a total of 545 men.
Volunteers were divided into subgroups according to the presence or absence of coronary artery disease and the amount of grey or white hair they had.
The amount of grey hair was graded using the hair whitening score: 1 = pure black hair, 2 = black more than white, 3 = black equals white, 4 = white more than black, and 5 = pure white.
Data was collected on traditional cardiovascular risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, high cholesterol and family history of coronary artery disease.
The researchers found that a high hair whitening score (grade 3 or more) was associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease, independent of chronological age and established cardiovascular risk factors.
Patients with coronary artery disease had a statistically significant higher hair whitening score and higher coronary artery calcification than those without coronary artery disease.
“Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age,” said Dr Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University, Egypt.
“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”
Dr Samuel said seemingly symptomless patients at high risk of coronary artery disease should have regular check-ups to avoid early cardiac events by initiating preventive therapy.
“Further research is needed, in coordination with dermatologists, to learn more about the causative genetic and possible avoidable environmental factors that determine hair whitening,” she added.
“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.”
She concluded that if the findings are confirmed, the grey hair scoring system could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease.
The research was presented at the EuroPrevent 2017 conference.