Severe Hair Loss and Heart Disease: A Warning for Men!

Severe hair loss and heart disease are connected - a fact now confirmed from a Japanese study back in 2012. This article reviews that study and suggests a reason why this particular link might exist.

Hair loss (male pattern baldness) can be quite a complicated condition with many studies over the years appearing to show connections between it and all sorts of other things ranging from your genes to lifestyle factors. And it also seems to be connected with other diseases too, including coronary heart disease.

The Study

The study was led by doctor Tomohide Yamada, from the University of Tokyo, and was reported in the journal BMJ Open in April 2013. It examined 850 previous investigations (from 1950 to 2012) that had formed a link between severe hair loss and heart disease, and then looked at six of these specifically. This type of study is called a meta-analysis, which means it's a study of previous studies. And it accounts for what, I think, is quite a large number of men involved: 37,000. However, the researchers did state that this was actually considered to be a small sized group!

The Results

The results of the study seem to confirm that there does indeed appear to be some sort of connection between hair loss and heart disease.

What I found most interesting, is that they reported a 32% increased risk of developing heart disease in men who have severe hair loss (i.e., over the whole crown of the head) when compared to men with little hair loss (e.g., a receding hairline) or no hair loss at all. The Japanese team were not sure of the direct reason why the link between hair loss and heart disease exists, but doctor Yamada did say:

"baldness could be a marker for insulin resistance, chronic inflammation or an increased sensitivity to testosterone, all of which are factors in the onset of heart disease."


However, I think there might be another possible factor: tissue calcification...

Can Calcification Explain This Link?

Coronary heart disease is caused when atherosclerosis develops in the coronary artery (this is the blood vessel that provides the heart muscle with nutrients from the blood it carries). Atherosclerosis basically means that the inside walls of arteries change from being flexible and smooth, to stiff and all covered in plaque.

And this plaque is largely made of calcium.

The significance of this?

Well, the mechanism for this type of hair loss involves skull expansion (i.e., skull bone growth). And the bone growth that skull expansion involves is obviously composed largely of calcium. So, I believe that this hair loss-calcium connection might also play a part in the link between severe hair loss and heart disease.

Why Men With Receding Hairlines Are LESS Likely to Suffer Heart Disease

I also have a couple of ideas why the study found that heart disease only seems to exist in men with severe hair loss and not in men with receding hairlines (i.e., much less hair loss) or no hair loss at all:

1. The more severe your hair loss, the more skull expansion you’ll have. So, obviously more calcium will be deposited in someone developing total baldness than in someone with just moderate hair loss. And more calcium in the skull bones, might mean more calcium forming plaque in the coronary artery too. 

2. Heart disease risk might be lower in men with receding hairlines simply because such men are likely to be younger - male pattern baldness is a progressive condition that can take years to develop, and often starts with a receding hairline.

Man developing a receding hairline

Some of the previous studies reported by the Japanese team did show that older men are more likely to develop coronary heart disease than younger men (the risk increase for bald men between the age of 55 and 60 was 44%).

So, in other words, it could actually be age that accounts for the difference in heart disease occurrence, and not the extent of hair loss.

Keeping Hair Loss and Heart Disease in Perspective

The report also stated that this increased risk associated with severe hair loss is still less than it is for men who smoke or are obese. Coronary heart disease is, of course, mostly associated with lifestyle factors like smoking and poor diet. So, perhaps it’s not really surprising that the British Heart Foundation commented on the report that men should focus on their waistline rather than their hairline!

Presumably though, if you’re bald, obese and smoke, your accumulative risk of heart disease from all these factors put together is even greater!

Always consult with a doctor about any medical condition or type of hair loss you might have.

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