Baldness-heart disease link
Balding men may be at greater risk of heart disease, a new study has revealed.
Writing in BMJ Open, University of Tokyo scientist Tomohide Yamada and his colleagues analysed data collected previously in six studies of over 39,000 men.
Hair loss from the top of the head (the vertex), but not the temples, was significantly associated with subsequent heart disease risk, they found.
Overall, men thinning on top were 32% more likely to develop arterial disease, and when only men under the age of 55-60 were considered the risk was even higher, at 44%.
The researchers suggest that the association might be linked to increased sensitivity to testosterone both in blood vessels, where it could cause arterial hardening, as well as in the scalp where it causes hair thinning.
Other possibilities suggested by the Tokyo team are that systemic inflammation, which can damage arteries as well as hair follicles, might be to blame.
But other commentators are more sceptical. The British Heart Foundation reacted to the news by urging men to pay more attention to their waistlines than their hairlines, and others have emphasised that the study has shown association rather than causation and so the actual mechanism might reflect some other shared factor or exposure that is common both to hair thinning and heart disease.
According to study author Yamada, it's important to keep the risks in perspective "we thought this is a link, but not as strong as many other known links such as smoking, obesity, cholesterol levels and blood pressure."
In other words, men should focus on the risk factors that they can take steps to minimise, like eschewing cigarettes, taking exercise, watching their weight and eating a healthy diet...