Several studies have shown an association between baldness and an increased risk of heart disease. Furthermore, known heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure appear to interact strongly with the presence of baldness in men, further raising the probability of heart problems.
One of these studies, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2000, involved 22,071 male doctors from the United States who were part of the Physicians Health Study. Over half the respondents reported some hair loss by the age of 45 with a third reporting some degree of hair loss on the top of the head. The study found that the more hair loss the doctor had experienced by the age of 45, the more likely they were to suffer heart problems such as heart attacks, chest pains, and angina.
Those who were starting to experience hair at the front of their head were at a 9% greater risk of heart problems compared to men with no hair loss. Those with significant thinning hair or a small bald patch on top of the head had a 23% increased risk of heart problems while those who had lost most or all of the hair from their head had a 36% increased risk of heart problems.
Amongst men with high blood pressure (hypertension), baldness was associated with a 79% increase in heart disease risk compared to non bald men. For men with high cholesterol levels, baldness increased the risk of heart problems by a massive 178% compared to non bald men.
The studies authors concluded that “Vertex pattern baldness appears to be a marker for increased risk of CHD events, especially among men with hypertension or high cholesterol levels.”
Another study, the Framingham heart study, also found an association between severe baldness and the likelihood of dying from coronary heart disease but that the association only existed amongst men under the age of 55.
The reasons why baldness is associated with increased heart disease risk are largely unknown. One possibility is that high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT) may increase heart disease risk. High levels of DHT are associated with baldness in younger males but baldness in older males is not generally related to DHT levels. This is why certain hair loss medications that block the production of DHT work in younger people but are ineffective in older men.
DHT is a steroid hormone which is formed from cholesterol. It is possible that high levels of blood cholesterol, which is known to increase coronary heart disease risk, may also stimulate DHT production leading to the observed relationship between baldness and heart problems.
While there is little an individual can do to reduce their risk of heart disease from baldness, it serves as an important warning sign, especially to those with high cholesterol or blood pressure since these individuals have the more to gain in terms of risk reduction through achieving a healthier blood pressure and/or lower blood cholesterol level.
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