What your gray hair is telling you

Going gray's nothing to be ashamed of.

It happens to just about everyone eventually, at least to some extent. Yet Americans spend millions on dye and other products to cover it up.

I'm not too worried about a little gray on the outside.

As the old saying goes, it's what's inside that counts. But new research reveals how out that outward sign of aging could also be a signal of some problems on the inside.

Don't worry; it's nothing to panic over.

But it IS something to pay attention to, because no dye in the world will cover up the process inside your body that's giving you those silver threads.

Some of the most common causes of gray hair include oxidative stress, inflammation, low hormone levels and your DNA losing the ability to carry out repairs.

Sound familiar?

Those are, of course, some of the very same causes of problems in the heart and arteries, especially the coronary arteries. It's the same process that causes calcification and stiffening, leading to heart disease and death.

Your gray hair won't CAUSE any of this, of course. But it may be an early warning sign that these issues are unfolding deep inside your body.

In the new study, researchers gave 545 men a score based on their hair color. Jet-black hair ranked a one, a touch of gray a two, a 50-50 head of black and white would be a three, more salt than pepper a four, while a snowy white mane is a five.

They found that anyone with a "hair score" of three or higher had a greater risk of coronary artery disease. The reverse was also true: Men with coronary artery disease were also more likely to have gray hair.

Of course, going gray is often (but not always) something that happens when we're older... and that's another major a risk factor for heart problems.

But the researchers also adjusted for the effects of age.

They found gray hair, on its own, is an INDEPENDENT risk factor for heart problems, regardless of age. In fact, they found that checking your "hair score" might be the SIMPLEST test of heart risk out there.

Like I said earlier, don't panic if your own hair is going gray.

This is a risk factor, not a guarantee -- and knowing that you're at risk now means you have a chance to stop the damage before it turns into something more serious.

Switch to a healthy Mediterranean diet, and make sure you have heart-friendly supplements such as fish oil, coenzyme Q10, L-carnitine, and magnesium.

They won't stop your hair from going gray... but they will protect DNA, block inflammation, limit oxidative stress, and slash your risk of heart problems.