08:42 GMT03 December 2020
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    Having a full head of grey hair may be a sign of senior vitality, but it may not necessarily be an indicator of longevity, according to new research.

    According to a paper by Irini Samuel, a cardiologist at Cairo University, Egypt, revealed today at the Europrevent 2017 conference, having a head of grey hair could, in some, point to the risk of heart attack or heart disease.

    Heart disease is most common killer of humans, according to the World Health Organization.

    "Ageing is an unavoidable coronary risk factor and is associated with dermatological signs that could signal increased risk," Samuel said at the presentation, adding, "More research is needed on cutaneous signs of risk that would enable us to intervene earlier in the cardiovascular disease process."

    What that medico-technobabble appears to express is that things happening to one's body on the outside, on the skin, may point to a specific problem with the heart, the organ responsible for moving blood around on the inside.

    Research shows that the mechanisms that regulate the circulatory system are similar to those that govern how hair changes to gray. In both of those processes, hormone changes, reduced DNA repair functions and inflammation play a part.

    Samuel's study sought to ascertain whether grey hair, normally indicative of the aging process in humans, could also indicate the damaging symptoms of heart disease, according to Medicalexpress.com.

    During the course of the study, 545 adult males were subjected to a deep x-ray scan of their arteries, described as a "multi-slice computed tomography coronary angiography."

    In the process, the test subjects were screened as to their heart health, especially with regard to the functioning of their arteries, those big tubes that connect the pulsing muscle in the center of one's chest to the far-flung outreaches of one's body, supplying all and sundry with fresh, oxygenated blood.

    Each test subject was graded, prior to their multi-slice computed tomography coronary angiography, as to the color of their hair (charmingly defined by the researchers as a "hair whitening score"), with 1 equalling pure black hair, 2 equalling more black than white, 3 equalling black and white equally, 4 equalling more white than black, and 5 equalling pure white.

    The study also required the test subjects to answer a battery of personal questions regarding their family history, as well as their personal habits and health history.

    Researchers were gratified to identify a clear correlation between hair color and heart disease. If, the study showed, a test subject had a hair whitening score of 3 or greater, they turned out to have a greater risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.

    Test subjects that had whiter hair consistently showed more ‘calcification' in their arteries, defined as the process by which soft tissues harden over time, becoming brittle and prone to failure.

    "Atherosclerosis and hair greying occur through similar biological pathways and the incidence of both increases with age," said Samuel. "Our findings suggest that, irrespective of chronological age, hair greying indicates biological age and could be a warning sign of increased cardiovascular risk."

    Regular checkups and a keen breakdown of one's lifestyle choices were advised by the medical team conducting the survey.

    "Further research is needed, in coordination with dermatologists, to learn more about the causative genetic and possible avoidable environmental factors that determine hair whitening," she said, adding that with further study, "hair greying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease."

    It was not revealed whether simply dying one's hair could prevent a heart attack.


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