Using CT coronary angiography, researchers concluded that gray hair has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease in men. The findings were presented at EuroPrevent 2017.
"Ageing is an unavoidable coronary risk factor and is associated with dermatological signs that could signal increased risk," said Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University, in a statement. "More research is needed on cutaneous signs of risk that would enable us to intervene earlier in the cardiovascular disease process."
In this observational study, 545 men underwent multi-slice CT coronary angiography for coronary artery disease (CAD). The participants were split into subgroups, depending on the presence or absence of the disease and their amount of gray or white hair.
The amount of gray hair was graded using a 1-5 scale—1 being pure black hair to 5 being pure white hair. Two independent observers graded each patient’s hair whitening score. Data was also collected on traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as diabetes, smoking and if any family members had coronary artery disease.
Researchers found that for participants with a grade 3 hair whitening score or higher, there was a link to an increased risk of coronary artery disease independent of chronological age and established cardiovascular risk factors. For patients with CAD, they scored higher on the hair whitening scale and had higher coronary artery calcification than those without the disease.
"Atherosclerosis and hair graying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age," said Samuel. "Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair graying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk."
Samuel suggested that asymptomatic patients at high risk of CAD should get check-ups regularly to avoid early cardiac events by initiating preventive therapy.
She also notes that further research will need to be done in coordination with dermatologists, and a larger study with both men and women will be needed to learn more about and confirm her findings.
"If our findings are confirmed, standardization of the scoring system for evaluation of hair graying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease,” said Samuel.