WEDNESDAY, April 3 (HealthDay News) -- New research out of Japan
shows a potential link between male baldness and an increased risk
for coronary heart disease.
But it only affects men who are balding on top. Those with a
receding hairline are not at risk, the researchers reported.
The findings stem from an analysis of six published studies on
hair loss and heart health that involved approximately 37,000
And although the researchers admitted the small study size was a
limitation, they reported that men whose baldness affected the
crown on their head faced a 32 percent to 84 percent increase in
the risk of developing heart disease compared to men with a full
head of hair or a receding hairline.
Study lead author Dr. Tomohide Yamada, of the department of
diabetes and metabolic diseases at the University of Tokyo's
Graduate School of Medicine, in Japan, reported his findings in the
current issue of the journal
BMJ Openand called for more research on the topic. Although
the research review found an association between baldness and heart
disease risk, it did not prove a cause-and-effect link.
Male pattern baldness (technically referred to as "androgenetic
alopecia") affects up to 40 percent of adult men and is the most
common type of hair loss, the researchers reported. By age 80,
about four in five men will experience this form of baldness.
To explore the link to heart disease, the researchers analyzed
databases covering the period 1950 through 2012. Out of 850 related
investigations, they selected six studies, all published between
1993 and 2008 in the United States, Denmark or Croatia.
In the three studies that tracked patients for a minimum of 11
years, the research showed that, overall, balding men face a 33
percent greater risk for heart disease than other men, and those
between 55 and 60 years old faced an even higher risk (44
The other three studies, comparing the cardiac health of balding
men to non-balding men, showed a 70 percent bump in heart disease
risk among the balding group, and an 84 percent risk for younger
What's more, a balding man's heart disease risk appeared to be
dependent on the severity of his hair loss, with more severe loss
translating into greater risk, the studies showed.
Yamada's team said the driving mechanism behind the connection
is unknown, but they theorized that 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.
Regardless, Yamada said, balding men should do what all men
should do when it comes to controlling heart disease risk. "I
recommend adapting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a
low-fat diet, exercise and less stress [in order to mitigate
against] classical coronary risk factors," such as age, high blood
pressure, blood lipid disruption and a history of smoking, he
Cardiologist Dr. Gregg Fonarow, of the University of California,
Los Angeles, agreed that the tried-and-true approach to heart
health stands -- regardless of your hairline.
"Clearly, wearing a toupee or a hat is not going to lower the
risk," he said with a chuckle. "But what is true is that
well-established means of maintaining a healthy diet and weight,
exercising, and watching blood pressure and cholesterol levels can
all lower your risk for heart disease."
Dr. Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's
Hospital in Boston, agreed.
"Unfortunately, this is bad news for me personally," he said.
"But if you are at a higher risk for heart disease, as I myself
would appear to be, then you have to try and reduce that risk by
doing the things that have long been shown to help. And stay tuned
for future research that may help us understand what is underlying
For more on male pattern baldness, visit the
U.S. National Institutes of Health.