4 Reasons Why Hair Loss is Linked to Hypertension
High blood pressure or hypertension is a sneaky health issue that makes it difficult for blood to be pumped around the body. You can have it for years without any symptoms, but all the while, it’s putting your heart under strain. It can lead to severe health complications and increase the risk of heart disease. However, researchers believe that hair loss can be one of the red flags. So if you are suffering from hypertension, the gradual thinning of hair at the top of the head, it could very well be caused by the same.
- Hair Loss and Heart Health
- What to do if you suspect your hair loss to be a sign of a cardiac compromise?
Hair Loss and Heart Health
Hair transplant surgeons often encourage patients to monitor their hair for signs of thinning, shedding, and loss. This goes beyond preserving one’s appearance, as a growing body of research revealed that hair health is also tied to overall mental, physical, and emotional wellness.
Stress, overzealous styling, diet, and illness are just some of the well-documented reasons linked to hair loss. But, researchers also identified a connection between hair loss and heart health. In one study, men and women experiencing pattern baldness were likely to show signs of hypertension. Another research in Japan also revealed that men going bald from the crown or vertex of the head have a significant chance of developing coronary artery disease versus those with a full head of hair.
It has been suggested that hair loss could be one of the many markers of high blood pressure.Experts have provided several explanations which we will discuss below.
1. High testosterone levels in the blood affect hair and heart muscles
Testosterone plays an essential role in several bodily functions. However, some of its least desirable effects occur when the hormone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT).High levels of DHT have been known to result in male pattern baldness. It can also cause negative effects on the heart since cardiac cells have receptors that bind to male hormones. This was proven in animals that were given testosterone and soon developed heart enlargement. Even athletes who abuse testosterone and other androgenic steroids as performance enhancers increase their risk for high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
That said, there is a correlation between hair loss and hypertension as the same hormone affects both processes.
2. High blood pressure damages arteries
Another explanation is that high blood pressure can damage your arteries by making them less elastic. Unfortunately, hypertension is associated with problems such as high cholesterol levels, prediabetes, and abdominal obesity – a cluster of cardiovascular risk factors called Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). MetS worsens arterial damage, decreasing blood flow to your organs which can lead to serious or even fatal complications.
When arteries in the heart are affected, it causes chest pain or what is referred to as angina, and if it affects the arteries in the brain, it can lead to a stroke.
Of course, the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the hair follicles are not spared. So the theory goes that, when high blood pressure restricts blood flow to the follicles, it deprives the hair of essential nutrients needed for it to grow. Hence, it can be a contributing factor to hair loss.
3. Antihypertensive drugs can have negative effects on the hair
To avert the potential complications of uncontrolled hypertension, antihypertensives are prescribed to manage it. However, aside from their therapeutic action, they also come with side effects and among these is hair loss.
High blood pressure medications, such as beta-blockers (e.g. atenolol, metoprolol) and ACE inhibitors (e.g. lisinopril, perindopril), can interfere with the normal hair growth cycle resulting in what is called drug-induced alopecia. However, hair loss becomes noticeable only after taking the medication for about 2-4 months. It causes the hair follicles to go into the resting phase where they shed prematurely. Those affected lose between 30%-70% more than the usual 60-100 hairs a day.
However, the risk of drug-induced hair loss depends on the type of medications taken and how you respond to it. Some drugs are strongly linked to causing hair loss, while other medications cause hair loss in some patients but not others.
If the effects of your blood pressure medications are causing you to lose more hair, you must seek medical advice to safely address it. You should never stop a prescribed medication on your own; rather, consult your physician first. Your medication may be changed or terminated, while considering the grade of hypertension.
4. Hair Loss is treated with Minoxidil
Another link between hair loss and hypertension is the fact that pattern baldness is treated with Minoxidil – a medication originally formulated to be an antihypertensive. Its capacity to stimulate hair growth is actually a side effect called hypertrichosis (excessive hair growth), particularly in areas where it is applied, although how Minoxidil delivers hair regrowth remains unknown. However, this medication is much known for its ability to stop hair loss from progressing, while hair regrowth is more of a secondary gain.
What to do if you suspect your hair loss to be a sign of a cardiac compromise?
With several studies pointing to the fact that hypertension and hair loss may be connected, men who show signs of hair thinning should be encouraged to improve their cardiovascular risk profile.Medications, lasers, and hair transplant may be the right fix to your hair loss, but it’s also wise to pay attention to underlying factors that may have triggered or aggravated it.
As you know now, hair can be an external barometer for your internal health. Since hypertension can develop and worsen while on the down-low, you need to be cautious of the signs and symptoms. If there are obvious changes to your hairline, it’s high time that you also pay attention to your waistline.
Hair loss has been linked to different conditions, which means that excessive shedding could be your body’s call for help. Seek help from your physician or a hair transplant surgeon for medical advice. If you think you are predisposed, you may talk to Singapore hair transplant doctor, Dr Tyng Tan today.
- Vora, R., et. al. (n.d.). Clinical profile of androgenic alopecia and its association with cardiovascular risk factors. Indian Journal of Dermatology. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6340244/
- Yamada, T. et. al. (2013, April 3). Male pattern baldness and its association with coronary heart disease: a meta-analysis. British Medical Journal. https://bmjopen.bmj.com/content/3/4/e002537
- Symptoms of high blood pressure. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/guide/hypertension-symptoms-high-blood-pressure
- Payne, J. et. al. (2004, May). Cardiac effects of anabolic steroids. Heart. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1768197/
- Medications that can cause hair loss. (n.d.). WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/skin-problems-and-treatments/hair-loss/drug-induced-hair-loss-2#1
About Dr Tyng Tan
Dr. Tan Tyng Yuan, MBBS completed her graduate and medical education in the United Kingdom over a span of 10 years.