graying hair

There are many factors that may cause graying hair, including genetics, low levels of catalase in the body, and high levels of stress. But the main factor that causes your hair to change from its dark, vibrant tresses to a light gray is due to melanin. Every hair follicle contains pigment cells called melanocytes. When you first start to notice your hair graying, melanocytes are still present but are less active. As the graying process progresses, the melanocytes die off until there are no cells left to produce your vibrant, natural hair color.

Recently, a cardiologist at Cairo University in Egypt, Dr. Irini Samuel, reported in a new study that gray hair has been linked with an increased risk of heart disease in men.

What is Atherosclerosis?

Atherosclerosis is the hardening and narrowing of the arteries that silently and slowly blocks the arteries from healthy blood flow. It is the common cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease – what together are called cardiovascular disease. Researchers from Cairo University have reported that Atherosclerosis and graying hair share similar mechanisms, such as impaired DNA repair, oxidative stress, inflammation and hormonal changes.

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The Study on Cardiovascular Disease and Graying Hair

This study was a prospective and observational study, which included 545 adult men that underwent a coronary angiography, a non-invasive diagnostic test that detects Atherosclerosis in the coronary artery. Patients were divided into subgroups according to the presence or absence of coronary artery disease and the amount of gray/white hair, using a hair whitening score – 1 = pure black hair, 2 = black more than white, 3 = black equals white, 4 = white more than black, and 5 = pure white.

Results of The Study

Researchers found that a high hair whitening score of grade 3 or more was associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease. Patients with coronary artery disease had a statistically significant higher hair whitening score and higher coronary artery calcification than those without coronary artery disease.

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Though Dr. Samuel says further research is needed in coordination with dermatologists and larger studies involving both men and women, “If you findings are confirmed, standardization of the scoring system for evaluation of hair graying could be used as a predictor for coronary artery disease.”

The Importance of Catalase in the Body by Jerry Hickey, R.Ph

Catalase is a conditionally essential nutrient and a highly-active primary antioxidant. It is a catalytic enzyme that occurs naturally in the body and is found in all cells, helping to protect the body from the damaging free radical hydrogen peroxide. Hydrogen peroxide is a byproduct of energy utilization found in every cell in the body. Catalase’s function is to break down hydrogen peroxide. But when the body does not have enough Catalase, excessive levels of hydrogen peroxide can result in bleaching, seen in the hair.

Questions for Jerry Hickey, R.Ph about Heart Health and graying hair? Leave them in the comments!

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