Men who go grey or bald in their 20s or 30s may be at greater risk suffering a heart attack, research suggests.
People who lose their hair or go grey before the age of 40 are five times as likely to also suffer heart problems at an early age, scientists found.
They discovered it was an even bigger risk factor than obesity, which raised the risk of early heart disease four times.
Experts suspect premature balding and grey hair are red flags that the body is ageing too fast.
They believe some people’s ‘biological age’ accelerates faster than their real, or chronological, age. This happens when DNA starts to deteriorate, damaging the cells of the body.
Such a process harms the heart — but also damages the hair follicles, which is displayed in grey or bald hair.
Lead researcher Dr. Sachin Patil, from the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre in Gujarat, India, said: “The incidence of coronary artery disease in young men is increasing but cannot be explained by traditional risk factors.
“‘Premature greying and androgenic alopecia (baldness) correlate well with vascular age, irrespective of chronological age and are plausible risk factors for coronary artery disease.”
The study compared 790 men who had heart disease before the age of 40 with 1,270 healthy men of the same age.
Participants were given scores for increasing levels of baldness and hair whitening.
Young men with heart disease were significantly more likely to be prematurely grey or balding than the healthy individuals.
Co-author, Dr. Kamal Sharma, also from the UN Mehta Institute, said: “Baldness and premature greying should be considered risk factors for coronary artery disease.
“These factors may indicate biological, rather than chronological, age which may be important in determining total cardiovascular risk.
“‘Currently, physicians use common sense to estimate biological age but a validated scale is needed.”
The findings were presented at the 69th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India in Kolkata, India.
Dr Mike Knapton, associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “At the moment doctors and nurses work hard to identify people who are likely to go on to develop heart disease or suffer from a stroke.