Male pattern baldness is also known as Androgenetic alopecia and is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Androgenic alopecia appears as a characteristic pattern of gradual, progressive hair loss, usually beginning along the frontal hairline and on the vertex.
In some cases, a horseshoe shaped region of hair will remain around the back of the head, but in others, the whole head will become bald. It is the most common form of baldness in men, occurring most often in white, middle aged men, although it can also affect women. Average age of onset is the mid 20s, with about 30% of men developing signs of male pattern baldness by the age of 30, 50% showing signs by the age of 50, and 80% by the age of 70.
Androgenetic alopecia is usually an inherited condition, caused by oversensitivity of the hair follicles to the presence of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a substance produced from the male hormone testosterone. DHT causes sensitive hair follicles to shrink, and over time, it can completely inhibit their growth.
Male pattern baldness can be treated by making lifestyle changes to improve general health and with topical application of minoxidil or oral doses of finasteride, which can help to prevent damage to the hair follicles.
Treatments are usually more effective at retaining hair before it is lost than in causing it to regrow once baldness has appeared.
Hair follicles that have been completely disabled by exposure to DHT cannot be revived by treatment.
Recent research suggests that androgenetic alopecia is associated with an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, particularly when it occurs before the age of 30.
Coronary heart disease includes angina pectoris, myocardial infarction or heart attack, cardiomyopathy and other forms of ischemic heart disease.
It is caused by a narrowing of the arteries that supply oxygen rich blood to the muscle of the heart, which prevents it from functioning properly, and it is the most common cause of death in many Western countries, including the USA.
Scientific studies of the association suggest that the chance that a man will develop coronary heart disease over a ten year period is about 32% higher for men who have male pattern baldness than for those who do not.
In a meta-analysis of relevant studies reported by the Hairloss Center, it was found that there was a significant association between hair loss on the crown of the head and the chance of developing coronary heart disease in men.
According to the research, which included about 37,000 participants, men who were losing their hair due to male pattern baldness affecting the vertex were more likely to develop a heart condition.
However, no such association was found when the hair loss occurred at the temples only. The authors of the study suggested that men who have vertical male pattern baldness should review their exposure to risk factors for cardiovascular disease, especially when the hair loss has occurred prematurely.
Baldness does not directly cause heart disease, but it is a sign that suggests an individual may be at greater risk of developing heart problems, since both conditions may arise from similar causes.
Both coronary heart disease and male baldness have been linked to smoking, elevated blood pressure and high levels of cholesterol. Treatments that help to reduce hair loss will only target this problem, without helping to tackle the causes of hair loss that can also increase the risk of coronary heart disease, but changing lifestyle factors that can cause hair loss and also raise the risk of heart disease can help to prevent both baldness and coronary heart disease.
Not smoking, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet that is low in cholesterol and includes plenty of fruit and vegetables can help to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and prevent baldness at the same time.
Male pattern baldness could provide a clear visual clue to identify the people who are at greatest risk from coronary heart disease and who will benefit most from preventative measures.
Men who are losing their hair due to androgenetic alopecia should be particularly aware of their health and the measures that can be taken to prevent coronary heart disease, although even men and women who are unaffected by baldness should be aware of the risk of heart disease.