Men who lose their hair prematurely or begin to turn grey in their younger years could be at greater risk of heart disease according to a study of more than 2,000 men.
Researchers at the European Society of Cardiology have revealed the findings of a study of men in India that found a clear link between hair loss and cardiac disease.
Findings from the study conducted by the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre in Ahmedabad are being discussed at the Cardiological Society of India’s 69th annual conference in Kolkata.
Comparisons were made between 790 men under the age of 40 with coronary artery disease, and 1,270 healthy men of a similar age.
The study found bald men were five time more at risk from heart disease than those with a full head of hair.
Dr Sanjay Rajdev, is a consultant of interventional cardiology at NMC Hospital in Abu Dhabi.
“Many non-conventional risk factors keep cropping up suggesting an association with coronary artery disease,” he said.
“While traditional risk factors for heart disease continue to remain the focus of our attention to reduce the risk of having a cardiovascular adverse event, the newer associations widen our horizons to pick up the disease earlier.
“They can help to initiate appropriate preventive measures earlier.”
Dr Rajdev said a similar recent study highlighted an association between ear lobe crease patterns with an increased chance of developing premature coronary artery disease.
“It is helpful to identify these subset of patients early, so preventive measures like diet and lifestyle changes and pharmacotherapy may be used,” said Dr Rajdev, who before joining NMC was a leading cardiac specialist at Seven Hills Hospital in Mumbai.
“Traditional risk factor modifications, including control of blood sugar, hypertension, dyslipidemia and encouraging enough exercise and eating healthily, remain the mainstay.
“These are "modifiable" risk factors we know about.”
Subjects in the Indian study led by associate professor Dr Kamal Sharma, were graded as the severity of hair loss on a scale of 0-3 – with 0 being those with a full head of hair, and 3 equating to men with little to no hair.
Experts found half of the men with coronary artery disease were already going grey, compared with just 30 per cent of the healthy males in the control group.
In those with heart disease, 49 per cent had clear signs of male pattern baldness, with just 27 per cent of the healthy men also showing signs of hair loss.
The men were also scored on a scale of 1-5, relevant to the percentage of hairs that were white, with coronary tests completed to assess their level of risk.
Doctors concluded that men with male pattern baldness were 5.6 times more likely to suffer coronary artery disease, whilst those with greying hair at a young age were 5.3 times more likely to have the condition.
The study also found obese males were four times more likely to have coronary heart disease than men with a healthy weight.
A similar Japanese study in 2013 of almost 37,000 people also found a link between baldness and heart disease prevalence, claiming they were 32 per cent more likely to have the condition.
Although not entirely clear, experts have suggested hair follicles may be the answer and show signs of premature ageing.
They are a target for androgens, like testosterone, so male pattern baldness could show a different response to these androgens that may influence the onset of heart disease, according to experts.
Doctors have said the baldness indicator could be used to monitor patients at risk.
"The possible reason could be the process of biological ageing, which may be faster in certain patients and may be reflected in hair changes,” said Dr Sharma.