What Baldness Says About Your Health

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Going bald may be an indicator of greater health problems.The majority of men will go bald by the time they reach 35—with some men claiming they experienced their first significant hair loss when they got married! While you can’t blame marriage on your hair loss problems, going bald can be difficult.

Male pattern baldness, also known as androgenetic alopecia, is the reason for about 95% of hair loss in men. It’s estimated that the majority of American men—two-thirds—will experience a significant amount of hair loss by age 35, and that 85% of men will lose a substantial amount of hair and have very thin hair (or none at all) by age 50.

While male pattern baldness occurs mostly in older men, balding can start even from as young an age as 21! Coping with hair loss is not easy. Men who have suffered hair loss, especially rapid hair loss, say they would do anything to get their hair back. Hair is an essential part of your identity, for men and women, so when you can’t get it back, it can make you feel upset, depressed, angry, and can even interfere in your interpersonal relationships. That explains why the market is flooded with dozens of hair products promising to prevent or stop hair loss.

Hair loss is a difficult transition phase to older age—it can be a hard emotional and psychological transition—but researchers now suspect that hair loss might signal something else, too.

According to the latest research, hair loss might be an early warning sign for cardiovascular disease. Based on a review of six studies, with a total of more than 36,000 participants, researchers found a strong link between vertex baldness—male hair loss on the top or crown of the head and not the front—and coronary heart disease. Men with more severe hair loss in those areas had a higher risk of developing coronary heart disease.

PLUS: More on the health risks associated with early hair loss.

Why might this type of hair loss be associated with coronary heart disease? Researchers believe that vertex baldness is “a local manifestation of factors promoting systemic atherosclerosis, such as metabolic syndrome, hypertension and smoking,” the study points out.

Male pattern baldness is also linked to insulin resistance, which can prevent nutrients from being delivered to the hair follicles on the scalp. Men experiencing hair loss are also more likely to have higher levels of testosterone, which gets converted into DHT by 5-reductase, and causes hair follicles to shrink. Researchers believe this is where the link to cardiac problems is manifested: 5-reductase and DHT receptors—the same mechanisms associated with hair loss—also exist in the heart, and are responsible for ensuring “vascular smooth muscle proliferation.”

If you’re experiencing significant hair loss, then you want to get a check-up to make sure there’s nothing else going on. Even if your doctor gives your heart the all-clear, it’s still a good time to start improving your cardiovascular health, by eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise, and quitting smoking and heavy drinking.

Source(s) for Today’s Article:
Yamada, T., et al., “Male pattern baldness and its association with coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis,” BMJ J Open. April 3, 2013; 3.
“Men’s Hair Loss,” American Hair Loss Association web site; http://www.americanhairloss.org/, last accessed April 15, 2013.