A few years back some studies suggested there was a link between heart disease and male pattern baldness. Today, it seems more information on the relationship between cardiovascular risk and baldness at the top of the head (vertex) is becoming available. Dr. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen of Copenhagen University Hospital Hair recently presented some new unpublished research on the heart health and baldness connection. Hair has always been a sign of one's health, so here might be one more reason to visit a doctor if you are personally experiencing hair loss or there is a high degree of male pattern baldness in your family.
Joseph Brownstein (FOX NEWS) reports:
A bald patch on the top of your head or a small vertical crease in
your earlobe may seem like relatively harmless signs of aging, but a new
study says signs like these may signal an increased risk of heart
Danish researchers found that people were 39 percent more likely to
have heart disease, and 57 percent more likely to have a heart attack,
if they had at least three of these four signs: baldness on top of the head, receded hairline, a crease in the earlobe, and fatty deposits on the eyelids known as xanthelasmata.
The researchers accounted for people's ages in their results.
Therefore, the study shows "looking old for your age, by [having]
these aging signs, marks poor cardiovascular health," said study
researcher Dr. Anne Tybjaerg-Hansen, a professor and chief physician in
the department of clinical biochemistry at Copenhagen University
While the exact reason for the links between these signs and heart disease risk remains
unclear, the study "validates the common clinical practice that the
clinician examines the patient, and often looks at whether a person
looks older or younger for her age," Tybjaerg-Hansen said.
The researchers used data from the Copenhagen Heart Study, which
included10,885 people who were over the age of 40. Over the 35-year
study, 3,401 participants developed heart disease, and 1,708 had a heart
attack. Researchers examined six physical features associated with aging, but found that two — gray hair and wrinkles — did not appear to be linked with increased risk of heart problems.
The study included 5,828 men and 5,057 women. When the researchers
considered the genders separately, they found that hair loss in women
was not linked with an increased risk of heart disease. However, among
the 737 men who had a receding hairline, 82 suffered a heart attack,
meaning there a 40 percent higher risk in men with hair loss than those
Previous research has looked at whether hair loss may be a warning
sign of heart disease, but results have been conflicting. Some studies
have linked the severity and type of baldness with the risks of heart
disease or heart attacks to varying degrees, but others have found no
connection. Because the risk of both heart disease and baldness rise
with age, it can be difficult for researchers to separate the two in
Tybjaerg-Hansen said the four signs identified in the new study
should give clinicians greater incentive to treat patients who have
them. "The suggestion is that lifestyle changes and lipid-lowering
therapies should be intensified, because their risk is higher," she
However, the area needs more research, because "it would be nice to
know why these [varying factors] would be associated with increased
risk," she said.
Tybjaerg-Hansen said, for example, that hair loss is linked with levels of testosterone
in the blood, so the new study suggests the hormone also plays a role
in heart disease, but there's "no hard data there at all, [it's] only
She said the group for whom the new results would raise the greatest
concern is men between ages 70 and 79. In this group, 45 percent of
those with all four aging signs developed heart disease, versus 31
percent of those with none of the four.
"This study underscores the importance of doing a good physical exam, in addition to any testing we're going to do for risk for heart disease,"
said Dr. Nieca Goldberg, director of the NYU Center for Women's Health
and American Heart Association spokesperson, in a statement in response
to the study.
While the researchers adjusted their results to account for other
risk factors for heart disease, Goldberg noted that, for example,
xanthelasmata is a sign of high cholesterol levels, a traditional risk
factor for heart disease.
Goldberg concluded that while the length of the study made the
results compelling, doctors "need to continue to monitor our standard
testing for heart disease risk, such as measuring cholesterol, blood
pressure, glucose for diabetes."
The researchers are presenting their findings today (Nov. 6) at an
American Heart Association research conference. The findings have not
been published in a scientific journal.