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Does grey hair increase men's heart risks?

By
WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Sheena Meredith
69x75_losing_hair_at_20_prostate_cancer

10th April 2017 -- A medical conference has been told that having grey hair may increase a man's risk of heart disease.

Heart disease is more likely to develop as people get older but researchers wanted to see if hair colour changes could be a useful warning sign of heart problems alongside age.

Hair and heart study

Cardiologists from Cairo University in Egypt studied 545 men and used CT scans to check for heart disease.

Other heart risks were assessed, including having high blood pressure, diabetes, being smokers and having a family history of heart disease.

A hair whitening score was given to each man and verified by independent observers:

  1. Pure black hair
  2. Black more than white
  3. Equal black and white
  4. White more than black
  5. Pure white hair.

Findings

Of those taking part 80% had some form of heart disease.

Having a high hair whitening score of 3 or higher was linked to an increased risk of coronary artery disease independent of their age and other risk factors.

Men with coronary artery disease were also more likely to have a higher hair whitening score.

However, their actual age, rather than their 'hair age', was still a stronger indicator of heart problems.

Should men with grey hair worry?

The researchers say the way they designed the study cannot prove a cause and effect between greying and heart problems - just an association.

However, they speculate that hair greying and some heart problems may be due to similar biological processes. With more work involving bigger groups of people - including women - they say that in future, people with no heart disease symptoms but who have changing hair colour could be referred for check-ups.

Reaction

Reacting to the study in a statement, Emily Reeve, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, says: "Unfortunately atherosclerosis and greying hair are just a part of the ageing process and some people are more susceptible than others.

"But while a few grey hairs are easily fixed, we need to fund more medical research to find a way to stop your arteries from narrowing and cut your risk of heart disease.

"A much larger study is needed before we start using hair colour as a measure of heart disease risk. If you’re over 40 and worried about your heart health you should ask your GP for a free health check."

These findings were presented at a medical conference. They should be considered preliminary as they have not yet undergone the 'peer review' process, in which outside experts scrutinise the data prior to publication in a medical journal.

Reviewed on April 10, 2017

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