With age comes gray hair which has been linked with coronary heart disease. A new research connects the two events, suggesting that gray hair may be an indicator of heart disease.
In atherosclerosis, plaque which consists of fat, calcium, cholesterol, and other substances – starts building up inside the blood vessels. With time, this plaque becomes calcified, limiting the elasticity of the arteries and the supply of blood to the heart and other organs in the body.
If left untreated, atherosclerosis may lead to serious heart conditions like heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
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One of the main cardiovascular events linked with atherosclerosis is coronary artery disease, also called coronary heart disease. This disease occurs as a result of plaque accumulating inside the coronary arteries.
Aging is a risk factor for heart disease. Also, atherosclerosis and graying hair have similar causes: the damaged DNA that comes with aging, increased oxidative stress, and the aging of cells.
A new observational study presented at the EuroPrevent 2017 conference of the European Society of Cardiology, stated that the amount of gray hair in adult men is related with an increased risk of heart disease.
Studying the link between gray hair and heart disease in adult men
The scientists observed 545 adult men who were suspected of having coronary artery disease and divided them into several subgroups based on whether they had the disease, and according to how much gray hair they had. The men had also been surveyed using a multi-slice computed tomography coronary angiography because they were suspected of having the disease.
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The team graded the level of gray hair using the following scale: 1 for pure black hair, 2 for more black hair than white, 3 for an equal amount of black and white hair, 4 for more white hair than black hair, and 5 for pure white hair. Each participant was assessed by two independent observers and received a hair whitening score.
Also, the researchers collected clinical data on the participants’ risk factors for cardiovascular disease (CVD), such as hypertension, smoking, diabetes, family history of CVD, and high blood cholesterol levels also called dyslipidemia.
The team used multivariate regression analyses and discovered that age, hair whitening grade, high blood pressure, and dyslipidemia all independently predicted atherosclerotic coronary artery disease.
Graying hair could be used as a predictor for heart disease
From the study, patients with coronary heart disease had a greater hair whitening score and increased levels of coronary artery calcification compared with their healthy colleagues.
A high hair whitening grade normally 3 or higher, linked with an increased risk of coronary artery disease. This correlation was independent of age or CVD risk factors.
Commenting on the results, study co-author Dr. Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, said:
“Atherosclerosis and hair graying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age. Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair graying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.
More research is needed on cutaneous signs of risk that would enable us to intervene earlier in the cardiovascular disease process.”
Dr. Samuel also recommends that high-risk patients who may not have any symptoms of coronary artery disease should get checkups regular checkups in order to avoid heart disease and start taking preventive 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,” she noted.