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What Gray Hair Says About Your Health

Chances are good that you know someone with gray hair- even if you don’t know it. In fact, there’s some talk that people are going gray younger and younger these days and scientists only have a partial understanding of why. What we do know is that depending on race/ethnicity, gray hair qualifies as premature if it is acquired in the thirties or forties (or even earlier). Some people are unfortunate enough to get gray hair in their twenties. Gray hair at an early age has a number of potential causes and can potentially be a sign of significant health problems.

The following is a number of things to keep in mind when it comes to gray hair- everything to suspicions of its causes as well as what it may mean if you have a significant level of gray hair. A few strands may not mean anything, but rapidly graying or thinning hair is cause for concern. If you have developed gray hair prematurely and suddenly, consider the following and if necessary, speak to a medical professional for an examination.

6. Heart disease

heart disease

It turns out that a head full of gray hair might be related to heart disease. This information comes from a European study of 545 men who were separated into groups based on how much gray hair they had, which was based on a scale of one to five. In this case, a score of five indicated extreme levels of gray/white hair, while a level of one indicated only a small amount of gray hair, with three being the average.

The men were also grouped accordingly based on whether or not they had coronary heart disease. For this particular method of grouping, specific documentation regarding any kind of heart-related illnesses the men had was reported; this includes diabetes and hypertension, as well as certain risk factors for heart disease, such as smoking, or a family history of heart disease.

The study concluded that those with higher hair scores also had higher rates of heart disease, or at the very least were more likely to possess the risk factors for them, which suggests a correlation between gray hair and heart-related illness. Specifically, for those men with a hair score over three, regardless of their actual age, there was an increased level of heart disease compared to those below three. Ultimately this suggests that the graying of hair can be used to predict the presence, or at least the probability of heart disease in men.

5. Hair Follicle Damage

hair follicle

Gray hair, even when it arrives on time instead of early, is an indication of damage. Essentially, the entire process of ‘growing old’ is the body failing to properly replicate cells, leading to the decline of cell quality. This happens because of exposure to things that damage cells- namely, oxidative stress. In the case of hair, oxidative damage can lead to the hair follicles malfunctioning, which results in hair that is gray instead of its natural color. The hair also releases small levels of hydrogen peroxide, which left unchecked, can build up, lead to oxidative stress and ultimately damage hair.

4. Vitamin Deficiency

vitamin b12

There is research to suggest that gray hair may also come about as an indicator of a vitamin deficiency. Specifically, if the body is not receiving enough Vitamin B12 from its diet, this can result in significant loss of hair color. Other vitamins and minerals that affect your hair health and quality include Vitamin D3, serum calcium, and serum ferritin. Generally speaking, a healthy diet that includes lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will protect overall health, including hair health. This is the best option; otherwise, supplements can help make sure you are getting the nutrients the body needs.

Related: Vitamin Deficiencies That Show up on Your Skin

3. Smoking and Hair Damage

smoking

If the correlation between heart disease and gray hair is any indication, then bad habits like smoking are also contributors to hair discoloration. This is because smoking can lead to complications like high cholesterol or high blood pressure. The chemicals and cigarette smoke can cause damage to many parts of the body, including the blood vessels; they weaken the blood vessels and make them more rigid, increasing blood pressure. In fact, smoking can more than double the chance of premature gray hair. Furthermore, according to a few studies, smoking can also cause damage to the hair follicles, leading to baldness.

2. Genetics

genetics

Also mentioned in the paragraph about heart disease, genetics play a significant role in the development of premature hair discoloration. As with many other factors, our genes influence this part of our bodies. Genetically speaking, if the body’s genes are hardwired to produce less melanin, which is responsible for the coloration of hair, a person may find that their hair will begin to turn gray earlier than expected. If it is a matter of genetics, it’s definitely important to consider the other parts of one’s genetic history- namely if there is a history of heart disease or other serious illnesses.

1. Thyroid Problems

thyroidThe thyroid gland is responsible for the balancing of a lot of hormones in the body. As long as it is in balance, many of the body’s systems run smoothly and efficiently. However, problems with the thyroid can result in a large number of symptoms that affect numerous areas of the body’s health. In fact, one of the effects of hyperthyroidism is changes in the hair- these can include changes in the texture or the color of hair, and can even result in hair loss. Hair may become fragile and fall out if the thyroid problem is not properly treated.

Related: 6 Herbs That Help Keep The Thyroid In Tip-Top Shape

There are a number of factors that are potentially associated with premature hair discoloration, as well as hair loss, but not every case of gray hair is cause for alarm. With that in mind, it’s important to assess the risk based on factors like diet, habits, and genetics. While we can’t-do much about the genes we are born with, but by practicing healthy behaviors such as eating a proper diet, and avoiding unhealthy habits like smoking, it is possible to reduce the odds of premature hair discoloration, and more importantly, to protect the body from serious illnesses, including heart disease.