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New heart-risk finding for men is a hair thin

| Friday, April 5, 2013, 8:57 p.m.

Good hair, strong heart?

The long-studied idea that balding men have a higher risk of heart disease gets some new support in a study out Wednesday — but experts say hair-challenged men need not rush to the doctor's office.

The study, published in the British medical journal BMJ Open, pools results of several previous studies with inconsistent results. It concludes that the link probably does exist, but is modest — far weaker than the link between heart disease and well-known risk factors such as smoking, obesity and high blood pressure.

The findings might give balding young men one more good reason to work on reducing such known risks, says researcher Tomohide Yamada of the University of Tokyo in Japan.

A bald scalp, he says, may be a “marker” for some underlying condition that contributes both to hair loss and to coronary artery disease. That could be anything from high blood pressure to high sensitivity to testosterone, the researchers speculate.

Yamada and his colleagues looked at six previous observational studies, including four done in the United States. They included a total of 36,990 men. On their own, four of the six found some statistically significant link between baldness and indicators of heart disease.

Because the analysis relies on so few previous studies, it lacks the statistical power to add much new insight about the suspected link, says J. Michael Gaziano, a cardiologist at VA Boston and Brigham and Women's Hospital. “We have hundreds of things that are related to cardiovascular outcomes,” Gaziano says.

Kim Painter is a writer for USA Today.

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