CAIRO — Though celebrities like Richard Gere and George Clooney wear it well, there are plenty of men who are terrified by the sight of their hair turning salty. Now a new study finds there’s more reason to worry: men who have gray hair are more likely to suffer from heart disease than those who don’t.
The study, led by Dr. Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University, involved 545 adult men who underwent CT scans of their coronary arteries to locate any blocked or otherwise diseased pathways. Researchers controlled for common heart disease risks including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, family history, among others.
Participants were split into various groups determined by whether or not coronary artery disease was located and the level of gray or white hair they had. Gray hair levels were measured on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being pure black hair and 5 being pure white. Those with a 3 were equal parts salt and pepper.
After analyzing results, Samuel and her team noted that men who labeled a 3 or higher when it came to gray hair had a higher risk of coronary artery disease, regardless of age and any other established cardiovascular risk factors. Similarly, participants who had coronary artery disease were found to be markedly grayer than those who did not have any blocked arteries.
“Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age,” says Samuel in a press release by the European Society of Cardiology. “Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”
Samuel suggests people at higher risk of heart disease have regular checkups with their doctors and consider preventive therapies for potential problems. She believes her study could help both doctors and patients keep an eye out and get a head start on such measures.
“Further research is needed, in coordination with dermatologists, to learn more about the causative genetic and possible avoidable environmental factors that determine hair whitening. 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 says. “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.”