Gray hair linked to increased heart disease risk

Gray hair is associated with an increased risk of heart disease in men, according to research from Egypt presented at EuroPrevent 2017 in Malaga, Spain.

Atherosclerosis and graying hair share similar mechanisms such as impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation, hormonal changes, and senescence of functional cells. The study assessed the prevalence of gray hair in patients with coronary artery disease and found that it was an independent risk marker of disease, according to Dr. Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University.

The prospective, observational study included 545 adult men who underwent multislice coronary CT angiography for suspected coronary artery disease. Patients were divided into subgroups according to the presence or absence of coronary artery disease and the amount of gray/white hair.

The amount of gray hair was graded using the following score: 1 = pure black hair, 2 = black more than white, 3 = black equals white, 4 = white more than black, and 5 = pure white. Each patient's grade was determined by two independent observers.

Data were collected on traditional cardiovascular risk factors including hypertension, diabetes, smoking, dyslipidemia, and family history of coronary artery disease.

A high hair-whitening score (grade 3 or more) was associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease independent of chronological age and established cardiovascular risk factors, the researchers found. Patients with coronary artery disease had a statistically significant higher hair-whitening score and greater coronary artery calcification than those without coronary artery disease.

In multivariate regression analysis, age, hair-whitening score, hypertension, and dyslipidemia were independent predictors of the presence of atherosclerotic coronary artery disease. Only age was an independent predictor of hair whitening, the researchers found.

However, further research is needed in coordination 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 graying and cardiovascular disease in patients without other known cardiovascular risk factors.

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