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Can baldness really predict heart disease for men? How to know your risks

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Could baldness really predict heart disease in men?

Another study links male baldness with higher risk of developing coronary artery disease. In the newest study published in the journal BMJ Open, researchers found an association between a man’s chances of developing heart disease and baldness on the top of the head. Could a man's hair really tell us about heart health?

Forty-four percent higher risk of heart disease for men with baldness

The finding, just like a study published in 2000, suggests baldness could be used as an assessment tool for heart disease risks. The current finding showed a 44 percent higher chance of clogged arteries within 10 to 15 years for men who develop baldness before age 60.

However, it does not mean you are destined for a heart attack if you are a male with balding on the top of the head. Researchers are not even certain why a man’s hair pattern might lead to heart disease, though some speculation exists that it may be from higher levels of testosterone.

JoAnn Manson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School said in a Harvard report in 2000:

"Testosterone and its more active form, dihydrotestosterone, close off hair follicles and interfere with growth," notes Manson. "These hormones also have been linked with high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, increased risk of thickening and hardening of arteries, and fatty deposits in these blood vessels. Testosterone is, in fact, one of the reasons men have a higher risk of heart disease than women."

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For the study, Dr Kazuo Hara and colleagues ferreted out studies from Medline and Cochrane databases to find the link. Included were 850 observational studies.

Baldness at the top of the head – known as vertex baldness – was linked to coronary heart disease or CHD. The authors concluded that more severe forms of hair loss and occurrence in younger men carry the greatest risk of CHD.

The take home message

For now it is more important to know if you have the following heart disease risks:

  • High blood pressure
  • Family history
  • Advancing age
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Overweight
  • Lack of exercise

Hair loss might be a sign of heart disease for men, but if so, it is a risk factor that can't be changed. Healthy lifestyle choices and early intervention to control your risks are the best way to avoid heart attack from blocked arteries. Until more studies are done, there is no way to say all men with baldness should be overly concerned about heart disease, though mounting evidence suggests vertex baldness could raise the risk of CHD.

BMJ Open
April 3, 2013

Image credit: Wikimedia commons