Although some doctors don’t regard hair loss as a major physical concern, it may not have just psychological implications. Researchers have found a strong association between baldness, high blood pressure, heart disease and prostate cancer. It may or may not be surprising then, that minoxidil and Propecia, medications traditionally used to treat hypertension and prostate enlargement, are also the most effective treatments for hair loss.
High blood pressure has been linked to heart disease, diabetes and early mortality, but a study published in the European Journal of Dermatology in 2007 also found a strong association with hair loss. Researchers looked at 250 men aged from 35 to 65 and found that those with a reading above 120 over 80 also had double the risk of hair loss compared to others.
It may seem coincidental then that in tablet form, minoxidil was first used to treat high blood pressure. When hypertrichosis (hair growth) was a noted side effect, scientists developed it into a topical treatment for hair loss patients. Minoxidil is a vasodilator that relaxes and widens blood vessels to improve blood flow, but it is not known for certain how it works to stimulate hair growth. Unlike other vasodilators however, minoxidil is the only one that has proven to be an effective treatment for hair loss.
Other studies have also suggested that hair loss may be a marker for heart disease. According to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine in 2000, men with mild balding of the crown had a 23 percent higher risk for heart disease compared to men with no hair loss, and those who were completely bald had a 36 percent greater risk. The study involved more than 22,000 men aged 40 to 84 and researchers examined many aspects of their health over 11 years.
Another study indicated that male pattern baldness could be a risk factor for prostate cancer. The study conducted by the US National Cancer Institute of the National Institute of Health Division of Cancer Epidemiology, took into account almost 4,500 men between the ages of 25 and 75, and found that those with hereditary hair loss but no history of prostate cancer had an elevated risk of the disease compared to men who did not suffer from hair loss.
Significantly, finasteride was first developed in the 1990s for the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia (prostate cancer) but it was later discovered that in smaller doses it could also help stabilise and reverse hair loss. Proscar is the licensed treatment for prostate cancer and Propecia is the licensed treatment for male hair loss.
Although, while it is possible that a link between hair loss and high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer exists, experts warn that the relationships are only correlations. Hair loss may be a trigger of these conditions or it could simply be a symptom of another risk factor. Heart disease and hair loss are both related to poor blood circulation and prostate cancer and hair loss are both the result of a genetic predisposition.
In fact, the vast majority of male hair loss cases are genetic. Most hair loss treatment programmes incorporate the use of Propecia or minoxidil or both, along with other possibly supportive products. The correlation between the conditions could be coincidental, but regardless, if you are using these treatments for hair loss you should inform your doctor. And likewise, it is important you let your hair loss specialist know if you have any health concerns, such as high blood pressure, so they can perform an accurate diagnosis.