Study Links Baldness Pattern with Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Levels

By Arthur Page

Release Date: March 30, 1990

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. - A study of Italian factory workers has indicated an association between male-pattern baldness - involving both hair loss on the crown of the head and receding hairline - and higher cholesterol levels and diastolic blood pressure readings.

The study, presented at the 30th annual Conference on Cardiovascular Disease Epidemiology sponsored by the American Heart Association, is the first showing an association between baldness pattern and risk factors for coronary heart disease.

Maurizio Trevisan, M.D., co-principal investigator and associate professor of social and preventive medicine in the State University of New York at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, cautioned, however, that the study does not indicate whether the link extends to the occurrence of coronary heart disease, a phenomenon the investigators will examine in continuing studies.

Similarly, it does not reveal the reason for the elevated readings, said Trevisan, co-principal author with Eduardo Farinaro, M.D., of the University of Naples Medical School in Naples, Italy.

The study involved 872 male employees of the Olivetti Factory in Naples, Italy, who participated in the Olivetti Longitudinal Heart Study, a study of risk factors for cardiovascular disease begun in 1975.

Among the participants, 36.8 percent showed no signs of hair loss, 31.3 percent had frontal baldness only and 31.9 percent presented with fronto-occipital baldness, traditional male-pattern baldness involving hair loss on the crown of the head and a receding hairline.

Men with fronto-occipital baldness had higher levels of serum cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure, the pressure measured in blood vessels as the heart rests between beats, than those in the other two groups.

Men with no hair loss had average cholesterol levels of 207.6 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl); those with receding hairlines, 208.3 mg/dl; and men with fronto-occipital baldness, 213.5 mg/dl.

Trevisan said the average diastolic blood pressure for the three groups was, respectively, 87.4 millimeters of mercury (mmHg), 86.5 mmHg and 89.1 mmHg.

He said the differences reached statistical significance when the average readings for men with male-pattern baldness were compared with those for the men in the other two groups combined.

The findings surfaced as the result of a survey answered by study participants in 1987. A check of original data collected when the study began in 1975 found no line between baldness pattern and cholesterol and diastolic blood pressure readings among the men at that time.

"Whatever is there is becoming more apparent only with increasing age," said Trevisan.

He noted that the findings were independent of age, body fat distribution, smoking and alcohol consumption. The researchers had no data on the men's diet.

Male-pattern baldness generally is believed to be hereditary, suggesting that the finds of the study may have some genetic basis. Trevisan said, however, that the researchers found no difference in family history of coronary heart disease among the three groups of men.

While Trevisan speculated that the results may be tied to increased hormone levels that some studies have linked with male-pattern baldness, he noted that the study of the factory workers did not involve measurement of hormones.

Also participating in the study were Vittorio Krogh, M.D., UB research associate; Fabrizio Jossa, M.D., of the University of Naples, a visiting scientists at UB; and three other Italian researchers, Giuseppe Fusco, M.D., Dante Giumetti, M.D., and Mario Mancini, M.D., all affiliated with the University of Naples.