Scientists have discovered that hair whitening may be an indication of increased risk of damage to arteries supplying the heart with blood.
According to researchers from Cairo university, Egypt, some of the biological mechanisms that cause coronary artery disease are also responsible for greying hair.
These include impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal changes and the halting of cell growth.
Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, said: “Atherosclerosis (artery disease) and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age.”
“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk.”
Researchers studied 545 adult men who underwent computed tomography (CT) scans for suspected coronary artery disease, which affects the blood vessels when bringing oxygen and nutrients to the heart.
Participants were divided into sub-groups according to the state of their arteries and hair colour.
Greying levels were graded using a “hair whitening score” that ranged from one (pure black) to five (pure white).
Each participant’s level of hair greying was determined by two independent observers.
Results showed that a hair-whitening score of three or more was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of coronary artery disease.
Patients with damaged arteries had higher greying scores than those whose arteries were healthy. They were also more likely to have calcium deposits in their arteries.
Hair whitening turned out to be an independent predictor of narrowing and hardening of the coronary arteries along with high blood pressure and abnormal blood fat levels.
“Further research is needed, in co-ordination 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.
“If our findings are confirmed, standardisation of the scoring system for evaluation of hair greying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease.”
The research was presented at EuroPrevent 2017, the annual meeting of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology, in Malaga, Spain.
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