For the Bald, Heart Trouble May Be Ahead

Coronary heart disease risk rises for those who have male pattern baldness

(RxWiki News) Men who are bald or going bald cannot comb over the fact that hair loss may be linked to coronary heart disease.

Previous studies have shown that baldness may be a marker for heart trouble. Some scientists have held that loss of hair may indicate an elevated level of testosterone, which has been associated with hardening of the arteries.

New research has found that when it comes heart health, balder is “badder,” and men who are bald on top of the head may be at greater risk than those with a receding hairline.

"Pay extra attention to your heart's health."

Tomohide Yamada, MD, with the Department of Diabetes and Metabolic Diseases at the University of Tokyo, collaborated on this study with three other scientists from the school.

Dr. Yamada and his team reviewed data from six previous studies on male pattern baldness and coronary heart disease which had been published between 1993 and 2008. The reports involved just under 40,000 men.

In three of the studies that tracked patients for at least 11 years, investigators observed that men who had lost most of their hair were a third more likely to develop coronary artery disease than their peers who kept a full head of hair.

The association between hair loss and heart health was confirmed in men under the age of 55 to 60 as well. Bald or extensively balding men were 44 percent more likely to develop coronary artery disease.

Researchers noted similar findings in the three other studies—balding men were 70 percent more likely to have heart disease, and those in younger age groups were 84 percent more likely to do so.

Location of hair loss was tied to elevated heart risk. Three studies indicated that those with hair loss on the crown/top of the head, or vertex, were more likely to experience heart problems.

Compared to the non-bald, those with extensive vertex baldness faced a 48 percent spike in heart disease risk. Moderate vertex baldness elevated risk by 36 percent, and mild vertex baldness brought a risk increase of 18 percent.

For patients with a receding hairline, the risk difference was very small.

The authors also analyzed four differing grades of baldness: none, frontal, crown-top and combined.

Again, more hair loss equaled greater risk. Men with both frontal and crown-top baldness were 69 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease than those with a full head of hair, while those with just crown-top baldness were 52 percent more likely to have the disease. Those with just frontal baldness were 22 percent more likely to have coronary artery disease.

The researchers said that baldness may indicate insulin resistance (a precursor to diabetes), a state of chronic inflammation or increased sensitivity to testosterone. These problems have all been associated with promoting heart disease.

“Cardiovascular risk factors should be reviewed carefully in men with vertex baldness, especially younger men," wrote the authors. "[They should] probably be encouraged to improve their cardiovascular risk profile."

The American Heart Association recommends its Simple 7 steps for improving hearth health:

  1. Get active.
  2. Eat better.
  3. Lose weight.
  4. Control cholesterol.
  5. Manage blood pressure.
  6. Reduce blood sugar.
  7. Stop smoking.

The study was published April 3 in BMJ Open.

Review Date: 
April 4, 2013