The Economists' Tool Kit
Case in Point: Does Baldness Cause Heart Disease
A website called embarrassingproblems.com received the following email:
"Dear Dr. Margaret,
"I seem to be going bald. According to your website, this means I'm more likely to have a heart attack. If I take a drug to prevent hair loss, will it reduce my risk of a heart attack?"
What did Dr. Margaret answer? Most importantly, she did not recommend that the questioner take drugs to treat his baldness, because doctors do not think that the baldness causes the heart disease. A more likely explanation for the association between baldness and heart disease is that both conditions are affected by an underlying factor. While noting that more research needs to be done, one hypothesis that Dr. Margaret offers is that higher testosterone levels might be triggering both the hair loss and the heart disease. The good news for people with early balding (which is really where the association with increased risk of heart disease has been observed) is that they have a signal that might lead them to be checked early on for heart disease.