KATHMANDU — Grey hair has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease in men, according to a new observational study presented at EuroPrevent 2017, an annual congress of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology (EAPC).
“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk,” said Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University, Egypt.
In atherosclerosis, plaque — which is made of cholesterol, fat, calcium, 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 vital organs in the body.
If untreated, atherosclerosis may cause serious heart conditions including stroke, heart attack, and even heart failure.
Atherosclerosis, build-up of fatty material inside the arteries, and hair greying share similar mechanisms such as impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal changes and senescence of functional cells.
“Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age,” Samuel added.
The researchers assessed the prevalence of grey hair in patients with coronary artery disease — usually caused by atherosclerosis — and whether it was an independent risk marker of disease.
The amount of grey hair was graded using the hair whitening score — one referring to pure black hair, two to black more than white, three to black equals white, four to white more than black, and five to pure white.
The study involved 545 adult men.
Data was collected on traditional cardiovascular risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, dyslipidaemia and family history of coronary artery disease.
The researchers found that a high hair whitening score (grade three or more) was associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease independent of chronological age and established cardiovascular risk factors.
Patients with coronary artery disease had a statistically significant higher hair whitening score and higher coronary artery calcification than those without coronary artery disease.
“Further research is needed, in coordination with dermatologists, to learn more about the causative genetic and possible avoidable environmental factors that determine hair whitening,” Samuel added.
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