For many men, hair loss is a frustrating and sensitive issue. Despite the irritating nature of the condition, physicians and researchers confidently stated for years that male pattern baldness is strictly a cosmetic issue, and not related to any serious illness or chronic disease. However, a recent study published in the British Medical Journal challenges this notion and claims researchers have discovered a link between hair loss and heart disease.
Researchers at the University of Tokyo studied over 37,000 male patients with androgenic alopecia (male genetic hair loss) and found a 32% increase in coronary artery disease (a precursor to angina and eventual heart attack) within the balding population. The team sifted through years of previous research and found a modest, but statistically significant, link between thinning hair in the midscalp and vertex regions and heart disease (specifically coronary artery disease). The researchers claim this correlation was not found in individuals with frontal hairline thinning, but do believe the correlation in midscalp/vertex balding is significant enough to recommend heart disease screening in male patients suffering from this type of hair loss.
So, does this mean otherwise healthy hair loss sufferers should worry about their heart health? According to the same researchers at the Univeristy of Tokyo: no, these individuals should not assume an immediate connection between their hair loss and cardiac health.
Though the Tokyo team did find a “moderate” correlation between midscalp/vertex balding and heart disease, the study indicates that the connection between previously known risk factors like smoking, obesity, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure is much more relevant. In fact, Dr Tomohide Yamada – the principle investigator of the study – states that: “We [think there] is a link [between hair loss and heart disease], but not as strong as many other known links such as smoking, obesity, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.”
What’s more, after reading the study, the British Heart Foundation said: “Although these findings are interesting, men who’ve lost their hair should not be alarmed by this analysis. Much more research is needed to confirm any link between male pattern baldness and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Hereditary hair loss may be out of your control, but many of the risk factors for coronary heart disease are not. Stopping smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and being as active as possible are all things that you can do to help protect your heart.”
Based upon these findings, it’s safe to say that men should be far more concerned with the connection between weight, diet, lifestyle, chronic ailments and heart disease, and less worried about the theoretical link between certain forms of baldness and coronary artery disease. Heart disease is a very serious issue, and all men should monitor their risk factors and schedule regular health maintenance examinations with trusted physicians. However, when evaluating heart disease risk, it is clear that men should monitor their smoking habits, weight, and blood pressure before even considering their hair loss.
Blake Bloxham – formerly “Future_HT_Doc”