Cardiovascular heart disease, also known as heart and circulatory disease, is the most common cause of death in the UK. Statins are a class of drugs that are prescribed to people with or at risk from cardiovascular heart disease to help them lower their cholesterol levels. Heavily promoted in the medical community, increasing numbers of patients are taking them, and currently around 2.3 million people in the UK are being prescribed statins (DoH).
According to Daily Mail articles from June 2006 & January 2007, guidelines from NICE (National Institute for Clinical Excellence) recommend that anyone with a 20% risk of cardiovascular disease over the next ten years should be eligible for them. This means that the number of people taking statins in the UK is expected to double to over 5 million within a few years.
The Department of Health estimated that statins saved 9,700 lives in 2005 compared to 2,900 in 2000. While many experts claim the drugs are perfectly safe following large clinical studies in the UK and worldwide, other scientists and doctors question their safety and point to studies that indicate statins have some unpleasant side effects including muscle pain, depression, memory loss, confusion, aggression and… hair loss.
Official figures show that the number of doctors’ reports of side effects and deaths linked with statins increased significantly over 2005. In 2005 the total number of deaths linked with these drugs over the past 18 years was 92, with 7,000 reports of adverse reactions. But such side effects are not widely discussed and as hair loss affects over two-thirds of men and 50% of women, it is difficult to test precisely the extent to which statins are to blame for balding.
But retired family doctor, former NASA Astronaut and USAF Flight Surgeon Duane Graveline MD MPH says clearly, “Yes, statin drugs contribute to human hair loss”.
Graveline says that drug companies do not mention this on their disclaimers because most people consider hair loss as very important and so hair loss becomes “a threat to marketing”.
There are several possible ways that statins lead to hair loss, according to Graveline.
Firstly, cholesterol is one of the major structural components of human hair. Graveline explains, “The relationship of cholesterol in human hair is so precise with a correlation coefficient of 0.86 that some advise it be substituted for blood cholesterol screening”. Therefore, statins, which can cause up to a 50% lowering of blood cholesterol, automatically have an impact on hair growth as there is less cholesterol to go around.
Secondly, statins can contribute to hair loss because cholesterol is the building block for the major hormones: aldosterone, cortisone, testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Together, these hormones are responsible for a wide range of important biological activities from carbohydrate metabolism to blood pressure control and sexuality. If their actions are impeded, then a person becomes susceptible to hair loss.
Graveline explains, “Certainly the numbers of people reporting this effect convinces me that a relationship exists but I also suspect it is grossly under-reported since very few people would expect this common condition to be related to intake of statin drugs”.
Here at the Belgravia Centre we have an expert team who can provide help for people suffering from hair loss. We take a full medical history before recommending treatment and for those of you out there currently taking statins, you may be glad to know that it can be combined with proven hair loss treatments such as Minoxidil or Propecia.
To arrange a free consultation at The Belgravia Centre you can call 020 7730 6666 or message the centre. Alternatively you can complete and submit an online diagnostic form for an effective treatment course by mail.