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Grey hair raises heart disease risk: study

Press Association logoPress Association 8/04/2017

As if going grey was not worrying enough, now comes the unwelcome news it is linked to heart disease.

Scientists have discovered hair whitening can indicate an increased risk of damage to arteries supplying the heart with blood.

They believe some of the biological mechanisms driving 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.

The findings could pave the way to identifying patients most at risk of heart disease just by looking at their hair colour.

Dr 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."

The team studied 545 adult men who underwent CT scans for suspected coronary artery disease, which affects the blood vessels bringing oxygen and nutrients to the heart.

Patients were divided into sub-groups according to the state of their arteries and hair colour.

Greying levels were graded using a score that ranged from one (pure black) to five (pure white).

The researchers found a hair-whitening score of three or more was associated with a statistically significant increased risk of coronary artery disease.

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," Dr Samuel said.

The research was presented at EuroPrevent 2017, the annual meeting of the European Association of Preventive Cardiology, in Malaga, Spain.

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