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Correlating Hair Graying and Cardiovascular Disease

Whenever one looks at correlations discovered between manifestations of aging, it is worth bearing in mind that it is easy to find these correlations, but hard to show that they are in any way meaningful. Aging is caused by a few comparatively simple processes of damage accumulation that spread out into a vast, complicated, branching tree of interacting secondary and later consequences. Aging is complicated because our biology is very complicated, not because its causes are especially complicated. This spreading out from common roots means that many parts of aging proceed at fairly similar rates in any given individual. That can be true even if those correlated portions of aging have little connection to one another aside from that same root cause, all the way down beneath many layers of cause and effect.

Aging is a complex process that affects all of us. All organs undergo a series of age related changes, in which the vascular system is prominent. Hair graying is one of the natural aging processes. Although it is generally not a medical problem, it greatly concerns many people for aesthetic reasons. Because of the strong association between aging and hair graying, many researchers have been concerned that hair graying, especially when occurs prematurely, is a predictor of some severe systemic disease and several studies evaluated the association of premature hair graying (PHG) with osteopenia or coronary artery disease (CAD).

Atherosclerosis and graying of hair share a similar mechanism includes impaired DNA repair, oxidant stress, androgens, inflammatory processes, and senescence of functioning cells, and the incidence of both conditions increases with age. Accordingly, this study was conducted to determine the prevalence and degree of hair graying among a cohort of males with suspected CAD who underwent computed tomography coronary angiography (CTCA) and whether it is an independent marker for CAD.

This study recruited 545 adult male patients who underwent a CTCA for suspicion of CAD. Extent of grayness was assessed with two observers using hair whitening score (HWS), defined according to percentage of gray/white hairs. Patients were divided into different subgroups according to the percentage of gray/white hairs and to the absence or presence of CAD.

We found that patients who had atherosclerotic CAD were older in age and among all cardiovascular risk factors, hypertension, diabetes, and dyslipidemia were more prevalent, and that high HWS was associated with increased risk of CAD independent of chronological age and other established cardiovascular risk factors. The results of our study not only confirm an association between hypertension, diabetes, smoking, and hair graying but also shows that coronary calcification detected by CTCA was significantly higher in patient with high HWS.

Link: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ehj.2017.07.001

Comments

I have a personal interest in this study being correct, being 58 with only ~5% white hair confined entirely to the temples, but I have my doubts. Why is it that fish oil seems to prevent, and in some cases reverses grey hair? There is little chance that fish oil is a general anti-aging tonic. Also, we all know people who went gray "over night". Are we suppose to believe that the damage that led to this was systemic, or so threshold crossing that would appear in other measures of aging? I'm sure their data is fine, but I'm not going to let it lull me into complacency on my longevity regime of anti-oxidants, an endocrine-enhancing herbal stack, fluoride-free regime, and exercise.

Posted by: Tom Schaefer at April 11th, 2018 10:27 AM

@Tom,

Agreed, I am also 58 and don't have any white/gray hair. So, yes, I am cynical as well, though, it would make me feel optimistic if it was true.

Posted by: Robert at April 11th, 2018 12:11 PM

I'll add to the skepticism. My whole family goes gray very, very early. My cousin started going gray in high school! I got my first gray hair in college. We all went gray by our twenties, yet there is no evidence of either diabetes or heart disease in my generation and in my parents and grandparents generation everyone seems to live to their 90s. I know it's just anecdotal, but I thought I'd throw that out there.

Posted by: tmr3608 at April 11th, 2018 12:46 PM

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