What gray hair says about men's health

Bill Ruth (KOMO-TV)

Bill Ruth is a bit of a regular at the Swedish Heart Institute in Seattle. His first visit was in 1979.

"They determined that I had a blockage, and I was, men are in denial of things like that. I said, 'Geez, that can't be,'" Ruth said.

Ruth didn't believe it because he was only 45 years old at the time and he thought that seemed too young for heart problems.

By his early 50s, his wife said his hair was starting to gray.

Doctors say that's significant because when a man starts looking older on the outside, he's probably showing more signs of aging internally, too.

Researchers tested that idea by analyzing the hair color and heart health of 500 men.

No gray hair? Those men were less likely to have coronary artery disease. But heart risk went up when men had salt-and-pepper hair or were all gray, regardless of their age.

"I think if you're starting to go gray and you're still younger, then it's probably a good idea to think about seeing your doctor about getting some screening test done to evaluate for coronary disease," said Dr. John O'Mara, a cardiologist.

O'Mara said the gray hair test is a valuable tool because it's a quick and easy way to know someone could be at higher risk for heart problems.

While you can't do much about going gray, you can slow down heart disease.

"I still think diet and exercise are far more important than this, and you can do a lot more in terms of prevention with diet and exercise," O'Mara said.

Now at 83 years old, Ruth has a lot more gray hair. But he's also staying on top of his heart health.

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