The graying of America

By • Published: September 14th, 2006
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Before twenty-nine year-old “American Idol” winner Taylor Hicks became famous, he was “that gray-haired guy.”

C-N-N’s Anderson Cooper saw his locks become salty in his twenties. And can anyone remember “Naked Gun” star Leslie Nielsen with brown hair?

For every actor who grayed at an early age, dozens of Alan Alda/Hawkeye Pierce types slowly frosted over, season after inexorable season.

These Hollywood heads of hair are reminders that, like death and ultraviolet rays, graying is largely unavoidable.

It occurs in men and women when the body stops producing pigments that give hair its natural color. Hair either becomes white, or it actually acquires a watered-down, gray color.

Certain comic books and movies would have us believe that a really good scare will cause graying overnight, but hair cannot suddenly change color.

True, a rare medical condition can cause dark hairs to suddenly fall out, leaving just the white ones, but a harrowing experience generally won’t do it.

Infrequently, gray hair indicates health problems, such as thyroid disorders, vitamin Bᆠ deficiencies and anemia. It could also warn of decreased bone density in women.

Usually graying is harmless. We can find clues to our fates by looking at mom, dad and other kinfolk.

Some folks will search for a silver lining… often finding it in a bottle of hair dye.

Others will be perfectly content to become “that gray-haired guy or gal.” And if popular culture is any sign, these days it’s simply sexy.