The study by EuroPrevent 2017 researchers assessed how common grey hair was in patients with coronary artery disease, and whether it was a risk factor.
They observed 545 adult men, most of whom were in their 50s, that doctors suspected had heart disease and had the men undergo diagnostic X-ray testing. The men were then divided into groups, depending on whether they actually had heart disease, and how much grey or white hair they had. Researchers also took note of a person’s traditional risk factors for heart disease, such as hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and a family history of the disease.
The two conditions may seem wildly unrelated, but researchers says that atherosclerosis, a condition in which there is buildup of fat, cholesterol, and other matter in and on a person’s artery walls, and greying hair have similar mechanisms, such as impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation, and hormonal changes. “Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways, and the incidence of both increases with age,” Irini Samuel, MD, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt who worked on the research, says in a press release.
“Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk,” Irini Samuel said.
Allan Stewart, MD, director of aortic surgery at Mount Sinai Hospital, tells Yahoo Beauty that the findings are “very surprising.” Grey hair is a marker of ageing, which is also a risk factor for heart disease, but there are many people who have premature grey hair, he says.
“Your body may be subject to other ageing, including coronary arteries, if you’re prematurely gray,” he says.