Baldness as a Signal of Heart Disease Risk

April 5, 2013

Baldness may indicate an increased risk for coronary heart disease.

The risk is associated only with male pattern baldness, the kind that starts at the top or back of the head, and not with a receding hairline, according to researchers who reviewed six studies that included 37,000 participants.

The analysis, published online in BMJ Open, found that baldness increased the risk for heart disease by between 30 and 40 percent compared with men with a full head of hair. They found the association among men 55 to 60 as well as among older men, and the more severe the baldness, the greater the risk.

The reason for the association is unclear, but the authors suggest that known risk factors for heart disease – hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking and others – may affect both conditions, and that baldness may be a marker of atherosclerosis. In previous studies, baldness has been linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer, diabetes and high blood pressure.

“It may be premature to confirm this relationship on the basis of only six studies,” said a co-author, Dr. Kazuo Hara, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Tokyo. “But the ultimate aim is to be able to predict the risk for heart disease more precisely in clinical practice.”

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