When one starts to go gray it can be a cause of worry. But as we get older we see it as a badge of wisdom. That has been the common theme of coming to accept your gray hair.
But new research, recently presented at the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Spain, should have us thinking twice.
It turns out that your gray hair could be a red flag.
Your gray hair’s silent warning for your heart
According to the team of Egyptian scientists, in some cases, gray hair may be an outward sign of an inward problem. Because, according to their research, there may be a link between those silvery strands sprouting on our heads and potential issues with our heart or artery health.
And while this was a relatively small, observational study—and certainly nothing to lose sleep over—it is still something to keep an eye on.
And here’s why…
It turns our atherosclerosis (coronary artery disease), or the hardening and narrowing of our arteries, has a lot more in common with graying hair than you might imagine.
Experts say the most common triggers for hair turning gray are…
- oxidative stress
- your DNA losing ability to repair itself
- hormonal changes
- your cells losing the ability to divide and grow
And the most common causes of coronary artery disease are… yes, you guessed it, essentially the same.
Study uncovers link between head and heart
For the new study, the researchers assigned a group of 545 guys a score based on their degree of gray hair.
Guys with pure black hair were labeled with “1,” a touch of gray got a “2,” an equal mix of black and gray was a “3,” more gray than black got a “4” and total silver foxes were labeled “5.”
The researchers also gathered data on all the typical risk factors for heart disease such as a history of high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, smoking, and family history, and made adjustments for all of those factors.
And since age is one more important risk factor for both gray hair and heart problems (both tend to pop up as we age) the researchers were careful to adjust their data for aging as well.
But after all the number crunching they still found that a higher score on the hair whitening scale—a grade of “3” or more—was linked to a significant increase in coronary artery disease, regardless of age or other risk factors.
So while your gray hair isn’t responsible for causing any heart issues, of course, it could serve as an important early warning sign of a problem long before you might otherwise realize it.
In other words, checking your own hair score could be the easiest heart and artery health test ever devised!
Listen to your hair and protect your heart
And remember, a higher hair score isn’t a reason to panic, it’s a gift. Because realizing you might be at risk before any other symptoms crop up could help you avoid serious heart issues down the line.
If you’re going a bit gray like me—or even if you’re already sporting a gorgeous silvery mane—you can start making the kinds of changes that will help protect your heart for years to come, such as eating more heart-friendly superfoods and avoiding the junk that can harm your heart.
They say gray hair is a sign of wisdom, so let yours help you make the wise choice to switch to a heart-healthy lifestyle starting today.