TODAY   |  April 04, 2013

Study: Balding men at greater risk of heart disease

A study conducted by the British Medical Journal found that men at the highest risk for heart disease are those with vertex baldness starting on the crown of the head. NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman reports and Dr. Roshini Raj discusses the findings.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> we're back now at 7:41 with important health news. 30% to 40% of men in this country affected by male pattern baldness . new research is linking it to an increased risk of heart disease . here's dr. nancy snyderman .

>> when i was 21 and losing my hair, i thought, oh, my god, this is the end of the world .

>> reporter: hair loss has a big impact on a man's self-esteem. and now a new report finds hair loss in men may also be linked to heart health. the journal analyzed results from previous studies, almost 37,000 men participated.

>> this study's really important information because it tells us if we have a physical sign such as baldness, that might be an indicator of what's going on inside our heart.

>> reporter: men at the highest risk for heart attack are those with vertex balding which starts ton the crown of the head and slowly spreads. while the reason for the link is unclear, checking patients with male pattern baldness could increase the ability of doctors to detect problems before cardiac episodes.

>> this research doesn't prove cause and effect . but what it does show us is that there may be a common underlying mechanism such as inflammation, high blood pressure , abnormal cholesterol. these may be the things that lead to heart disease and baldness.

>> reporter: an established link that could give hope to preventing a hidden but dangerous problem. for "today," nbc news, new york.

>> a "today" contributor and assistant professor of medicine at the nyu medical center . dr. raj, good to see you. guys are going to see this, get on the phone and call their cardiologist and make an appointment. is that the correct response?

>> well, i always encourage men and women to talk to their cardiologist about the risk factor for heart disease and make sure glucose are under control. should bald men panic? i don't think so. this study did show a slightly increased risk when you think about overall numbers and it was particularly seen in younger men and those who had the vertex baldness, that means the top of the head as opposed to the front of the head.

>> the earlier you lose your hair as a man, the greater the risk of heart disease ?

>> correct.

>> and the more severe your hair loss , the greater the risk, as well.

>> that's right. when they broke it down by how much you were balding.

>> we're talking about research that looked at 37,000 men, it's not insignificant at all.

>> although, i should say this is a meta analysis , they pooled studies together.

>> when they say there may be a link between inflammation and cholesterol levels in men and hair loss , you know, the logical side of me says wait a second, if i go out and start taking anti-inflammatories as a young man, i might reduce my risk of hair loss . and if i take statents, i might also reduce my risk for hair loss .

>> it's interesting, one of the most common treats for hair loss started out as a blood pressure medicine. there are common links and the treatments, but i think it's still too soon based on the study to say all bald men should start taking an aspirin.

>> all right. let's make sure we simplify it at the end. someone who suffers from male pattern baldness , and i know a guy like that, what should the take away be?

>> the take away should be that you are most likely at somewhat of an increased risk for heart disease . talk to your doctor about your other risk factors and make sure those are under control.

>> doc, thanks so much. good