Men with salt-and-pepper hair have an electrifying effect on us though it does seem to be a reminder of ageing. Ageing is an inevitable process and one that besides increasing the number of years spent in this world (for a change, its not the number on the scale) also brings with it a chain of changes to both your mind and body. It involves genetic, hormone-related and environmental mechanisms. Every organ in our body is affected by age-related changes and the vascular system holds topmost prominence. Physically, wrinkles, crow’s eye, baldness and grey hair are prominent signs of ageing and makes us look even older than our age. Until now, we have brooded over these physical changes that can impact our self-esteem and charisma but now, one of them, grey hair, seems to be associated with heart-related ailments according to latest studies.
The Light-Colored Hair Has a Darker Effect on the Heart
It’s not surprising to see a 50-year-old man with pitch-dark black hair (natural color) nor a 20-year-old student with prominently visible white hair. It is in your gene and this is not exaggeration. It’s a fact that some things are beyond your control.
Researchers have been quite concerned about early greying of hair recently and when it happens prematurely, they relate it to some disease-several studies too show a link between premature hair greying (PHG) and coronary artery disease (https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation-now/2017/04/12/got-gray-hair-you-could-get-heart-disease-too/100371876/).
Atherosclerosis is characterized by buildup of plaque (fatty deposits made of cholesterol, fat, calcium and other substances) inside the walls of the arteries. When this buildup happens in the arteries that supply blood to the heart it is termed as coronary heart disease. The buildup is such that the arteries become narrow preventing normal blood flow to the heart. We are aware that ageing is a risk factor for heart disease but what is new to us is the fact that grey heart in men might be a risk factor for it too!
Ageing & Atherosclerosis
Impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, ageing of cells and inflammation are mechanisms that are common to hair greying and atherosclerosis. A study tried to analyze whether the presence of grey hair in individuals with coronary heart disease was an independent risk marker of the disease. The study included 545 men who were divided into groups based on the presence/absence of coronary heart disease and grey/white hair. The amount of grey hair present was marked on a scale from 1-5: 1 is for pure black hair, 2 is for more black than white, 3 is for equal black and white, 4 is for more white than black and 5 is for pure white. A detailed history of the participants was collected and their risk factor for cardiovascular disease such as BP, sugar, smoking and dyslipidemia was noted.
While age was an independent predictor of hair whitening, in multivariate regression analysis age, hair whitening score, hypertension and dyslipidemia were independent predictors of coronary heart disease. A score of 3 or more was linked with a higher risk of coronary artery disease irrespective of the age or risk of CVD. Both, atherosclerosis and greying hair share a similar biological pathway whose risk increases with age. This was proved by an Indian study which also proposed that the production of free radicals increase as the person grows old but the endogenous defense mechanisms decrease. Also, grey hair was prominent in those individuals who were smoking tobacco, chewing tobacco or doing both compared to those who were nonsmokers. Greying hair is a strong indicator of biological age regardless of the chronological age and could be a serious sign of cardiovascular risk. An independent study proved that grey hair prevailed in 50% individuals in their thirties, 81% individuals in their forties and 95% of them in their fifties and, the risk of greying increased by 14% every year. However, women were not included in this study and we need further research to dwell upon the relationship between grey hair and cardiovascular disease risk in the female gender.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.