The Loh Down On Science

Surprising health implications for bald spots and receding hairlines

Yamada et al., Dermatology, 2013.

Association between baldness (two types) and coronary heart disease across three studies. Solid vertical line at 1 (long horizontal line) means no association. As you move to the right, the amount of risk increases. So, for example, Shahar 2008 study for frontal baldness found a 28% higher risk for heart disease for those with frontal baldness than for those with no baldness. Diamonds summarize risk level for all three studies in any particular category of baldness. Thus, heart disease risk overall is 11% higher for frontal baldness than for no baldness. RR=relative risk.

Here's one thing Dr. Phil doesn’t know about matters of the heart.

This is Sandra Tsing Loh with the Loh Down on Science.

Sometimes two phenomena with no apparent link can surprise us.

Medical researchers in Japan recently noticed this about male hair loss and heart disease.  Unrelated studies each linked bald heads with bad hearts.  Each study was different.  But each found connections.

So the team examined more studies mentioning both baldness and heart disease.  Hundreds of studies, going back decades!  They narrowed down to six different studies covering almost forty-thousand men in Europe and America.  These used similar measurements, so their data could be readily compared. 

And?  Per the studies, the balder the head, the higher the heart disease risk.  Going bald younger increases risk more.  Why?  Still unknown.

Oddly, the link only applies to crown, or “vertex” baldness—bald spots! 

But frontal baldness?  AKA receding hairlines?  No connection.

Happily, medical treatments for both heart disease and hair loss are improving all the time.  This is not your grandpa's risk of heart disease—nor his hair plugs!

So yes, Dr. Phil, you’re at higher risk for heart disease, but to modern medicine, hats off.

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The Loh Down on Science is produced by LDOS Media Lab, with 89.3 KPCC. And made possible by the generous support of the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation.

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