But if you’re graying well before that time frame, does that mean your body is aging way too fast? Might other aspects of your health be in danger?
That’s a common question, and it’s one that researchers have sought to answer. And there is some evidence that early graying can hint at some health issues, particularly to your heart.
For instance, a study presented at the 69th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India found that men under 40 with premature graying were more than five times as likely as their gray-free counterparts to have coronary artery disease, a narrowing of the arteries that can lead to heart attack. Back in 2012, researchers from the U.K. theorized that the aging of the melanocytes that causes graying could be due to oxidative stress, a biological process that could damage healthy cells and tissue. So the same process going on in your hair cells might be going on elsewhere in your body, too.
But don’t freak out just yet. The evidence in favor of premature graying hurting your heart still isn’t very strong, says Dr. Daveluy.
That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t play the preventive game if silver strands keep popping up, though.
“If you do have significant graying before the age of 35, it would be a good idea to make sure you talk to your doctor about optimizing other risk factors for heart disease, like diet, exercise, weight, high blood pressure, high cholesterol,” says Dr. Daveluy.
That means it can’t hurt to be extra vigilant about your heart health if you’re going gray. But a few strands of gray hair likely don’t mean as much danger to you heart as known heart-unhealthy habits, like gaining too much weight, smoking, eating junk, or skipping the gym. While you can’t control when you’ll go gray, you are in charge of those other factors—so make them your main focus when thinking about your heart.