2017-05-31 / Health Care

Do bald men have an increased risk of heart attacks?

By Dr. David Samadi

Does seeing a man who is bald make you think, “He is a heart attack waiting to happen?” That has been the message over the years, that men who are bald or balding having higher rates of coronary heart disease. But is there any truth to this notion, and if so, why? Patterns of male baldness

Male pattern baldness or androgenic alopecia, affects an estimated 50 million men in the U.S. according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). This hair loss men experience is due to the shrinkage of hair follicles impacting the growth cycle. As new hairs come in they become finer and finer until there is no hair left and all the follicles become dormant. This hair loss is caused by hormones and certain genes.

Male pattern baldness has a distinctive shape. The front hairline recedes, especially at the sides, forming an M shape which is frontal baldness. The crown of the head also known as the vertex becomes bald as well. Eventually the two areas will join together forming into a “U” shape. Male baldness and heart attacks

Whether a man who is bald or balding is at a greater risk of having a heart attack, appears to depend on the type of balding he has. When all bald men are grouped together, there is not much difference in their heart attack risk. But when you break them apart according to the type of baldness they have, this is where things change.

What studies have found is that men who are balding at the tip or crown of their head had a higher risk of coronary heart disease than men with frontal balding.

A 2008 study from the University of Arizona of over 5,000 men found that when the men were separated by type and severity of baldness, there was a difference in heart attack risk. Men were separated by whether they had frontal baldness only (the M pattern) or whether had a combination of frontal and vertex baldness (the U pattern).

After comparing the men’s health records, men with frontal and vertex balding were more likely to have had a heart attack in the past then men with other types of baldness. The more severe the baldness, the more likely a man was to have a heart attack. Men with moderate vertex baldness were 20% more likely to have had a heart attack.

A 2013 study published in the online journal BMJ Open found that men who had vertex hair loss had a 69 percent higher risk of a non-fatal heart attack compared to men with a full head of hair. Men with just a receding hairline were not at an increases risk. The takeaway message

These studies are not saying that every single man who is balding will automatically have a heart attack. There is no guarantee if one will or won’t, but it is important for these men to understand that they might be at an increased risk.

Any man who is losing hair should discuss with his doctor his concerns over possible heart attack risks and particularly so if heart disease does run in his family. Their cardiovascular risk factors should be reviewed carefully. Adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a low-fat diet, exercise and less stress can help improve the outcomes for hypertension and blood lipid profiles.

The earlier in life all men, whether balding or not, take charge of their health by learning ways to reduce their risk of cardiovascular disease, the greater the odds they will have at improving their cardiovascular health before a heart attack may happen.

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