If you're bald—or are balding at the crown—don't be surprised if your cardiologist takes notice.

Men who are completely bald or bald at the crown may be at higher risk of developing atherosclerosis (clogged arteries) and heart disease than those with frontal baldness, a receding hairline, or a full head of hair, according to an analysis of six scientific studies published between 1993 and 2008. Hundreds of other studies that were not included in this analysis, published as long ago as 1950, hint at a similar association.

Top-of-the-head baldness has actually been linked to numerous medical conditions associated with atherosclerosis including: insulin resistance (or pre-diabetes), chronic inflammation, and increased sensitivity to the hormone testosterone. "As with other physical signs that may possibly signal cardiovascular disease, baldness remains a curiosity," says William A. Tansey III, MD, cardiologist at Summit Medical Group in New Jersey. "The relationship is not tight and, at this point, there isn't much to offer in the way of advice beyond the standard recommendations for anyone who has risk factors for developing atherosclerosis and heart disease."

The other physical signs Tansey refers to include having a diagonal ear lobe crease, arcus senilis (a circle on the iris), fat deposits around the eye, and loss of hair on the legs, feet and toes. Like crown baldness, all of these signs have been associated with higher risk of cardiovascular disease yet, for the most part, the connection is not fully understood. And while they may in fact be indicators of increased risk, these conditions are by no means linked to higher death rates from cardiovascular disease.

"If you have a family history of heart disease, or any of the conditions clearly linked to heart disease, such as high blood pressure or diabetes, it is important to adjust your lifestyle habits accordingly and take preventative measures, regardless of how much hair you have on your head," Tansey points out.

That means following a heart-healthy diet in accordance with American Heart Association recommendations, getting enough exercise, taking steps to reduce stress, and seeing your doctor on a regular basis for routine check-ups and lab tests. For more information on living heart healthly, visit their website.

William A. Tansey III, MD, reviewed this article.


Yamada T, Hara K, Umematsu H et al. "Male pattern baldness and its association with coronary heart disease a meta analysis." BrMJ Open 20133e002537; 3 Apr 2013. http://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/4/e002537