Do men with baldness have a greater chance of getting heart disease? This question has prompted a study that tracked more than 5,000 men.
Researchers from the University of Arizona in Tucson reported in April 2008 in the American Journal of Epidemiology that there is little difference in the heart attack risk between men who have full heads of hair and baldness.
In addition, hair loss and thickening of the lining of the carotid arteries (the main vessels that supply blood to the brain) are unrelated. It is known that the increase in the lining of these arteries, known as carotid intimal-medial thickness, is a warning sign of atherosclerosis.
In fact, some health experts have suggested that baldness in men is related to increased levels of the hormone androgen, and that this hormone may be responsible for the development of coronary atherosclerosis, or 'hardening of the arteries' within the heart. A previous study even suggested that vertex baldness (loss of hair at the top of the head) was strongly linked to heart attack risk.
In this study, 767 of the 5,056 male participants aged 52 to 75 had suffered a heart attack previously. About one third had little or no hair loss, 13 percent had frontal baldness, and 54 percent had vertex baldness.
Men with frontal baldness were 28 percent more likely to have had a heart attack, while those with mild vertex baldness was tied to only 2 percent greater risk of heart attack. The researchers also found that such relationship did not get stronger with baldness severity; men with moderate vertex baldness were 40 percent more likely to have a heart attack, and the risk was increased by only 18 percent for men with severe vertex baldness. In addition, there was no relationship found between any type of baldness and carotid intimal-medial thickness.
The new study shows that if the types of baldness are indeed due to high androgen levels, it is unlikely that the hormone would increase the risk of heart attack or atherosclerosis. Therefore, the researchers conclude that male pattern baldness is not a surrogate measure of an important risk factor for heart attacks or for atherosclerosis without symptoms.
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