An analysis of 6 previous studies including almost 37,000 men has reaffirmed our suspicion that male baldness is associated with an increased risk of heart disease*. The risk is prominent only with vertex baldness (i.e., on the crown of the head) and increases with the severity of the baldness. Men with severe vertex baldness have about a 50 percent greater risk of heart disease than their more hirsute counterparts, according to the meta-analysis. The studies followed men over an average period of 11 to 14 years. This risk applies to men both young and old. Frontal baldness–aka the receding hairline–was not found to have a significant association with heart disease.
Scientists don’t know why vertex baldness is associated with heart disease. One postulate is that the male hormones that cause baldness may also increase the risk of atherosclerosis (the accumulation of fats and cholesterol that harden and narrow arteries, which can impede blood flow) but this hasn’t been proven.
Now, before you reach for a mirror and start panicking, you should know that this increased risk is smaller than that associated with more traditional risk factors such as smoking, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity. The value of this study lies primarily in alerting balding men of their increased risk for heart disease, to encourage them to see their primary health care providers as needed, and to be proactive about managing their overall risk. Understanding your risks and discussing them with your provider will help you maximize lifestyle interventions, control other risk factors, and monitor and manage blood pressure and elevated blood sugars and cholesterols appropriately. There are, of course, other measures that you can do on your own: Don’t smoke, exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, and eat a balanced diet.
And, no, getting a hair transplant won’t help.
*In this study, heart disease was defined as any of the following: coronary artery disease, a heart attack, cardiac-related chest pain (angina), and damage to the heart muscle.