Sian C. Owen, Medical Writer for Cardio Debate

There are many factors are traditionally associated with heart disease such as high cholesterol, obesity and smoking. Now we can add male pattern baldness and premature grey hairs in men, which, according to research presented at the 69th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India causes a five-fold increase in risk of coronary artery disease (CAD).

Researchers at the U.N. Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India looked at the link between premature hair greying and alopecia patterns in young Indian men with CAD. They found that young men aged less than 40 years old with CAD had a higher prevalence of premature greying (50% versus 30%) and male-pattern baldness (49% versus 27%) compared to healthy controls.

In fact, male-pattern baldness was associated with a 5.6 times greater risk of coronary artery disease (95% confidence interval [CI] 4.0–7.8, p<0.0001) and premature greying was associated with a 5.3 times greater risk (95% CI 3.7–7.5, p<0.0001). Obesity was associated with a four-fold increased risk of CAD.

Principal investigator Dr Kamal Sharma tells the ESC: “Baldness and premature greying should be considered risk factors for coronary artery disease. These factors may indicate biological, rather than chronological, age which may be important in determining total cardiovascular risk. Currently physicians use common sense to estimate biological age but a validated scale is needed.”

Professor Marco Roffi, course director of the ESC programme at CSI and head of the Interventional Cardiology Unit, Geneva University Hospital, Switzerland, tells the ESC: “Assessment of risk factors is critical in the prevention and management of cardiovascular disease.”

“Classical risk factors such as diabetes, family history of coronary disease, smoking, sedentary lifestyle, high cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are responsible for the vast majority of cardiovascular disease. It remains to be determined whether potential new risk factors, like the ones described, may improve cardiovascular risk assessment.” [1]

This research made headlines in the mainstream media. However, beyond the headlines these risk factors could be important tools for helping determine total cardiovascular risk.