At a medical conference in Spain this weekend cardiologist Irini Samuel presented a study linking gray hair and an increased risk for heart disease and coronary events like heart attacks.
Samuel explains the link by pointing out that normal aging and atherosclerosis both involve oxidative stress, inflammation and the body’s decreased ability to repair its own DNA. “Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age,” said Samuel in the conference’s press release about the study. “Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”
What she and her team did was to test 545 adult men for signs of heart disease and then group them in respect to the amount of gray hair each man had. What they ultimately found was that men who were deemed to be about 50% gray or more were–in the researchers words–“significantly” more likely to also have signs of coronary artery calcification than men who were less gray.
This was a prospective, observational study so it’s unlikely that your doctor will diagnose you with heart disease based on your hair color anytime soon. Still, says Samuel, after her findings are confirmed by larger studies, we just might someday see the loss of natural hair color being treated as an early warning sign.
Photo credit: Pixabay user Elektro-Plan