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BALDNESS, CHILDBEARING TIED TO HEART DISEASE

BALDNESS, CHILDBEARING TIED TO HEART DISEASE

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Bald men and mothers who bear five or more children develop blood cholesterol patterns that might raise their risk of heart disease, according to studies released Friday.

In a study of 872 electronics factory workers in Italy, Dr. Maurizio Trevisan found blood cholesterol and blood pressure levels rose with age among the 278 men with male-pattern baldness. They defined that as a receding hairline and a bald spot on the crown of the head.The small but significant increases weren't found among the 321 men with full heads of hair or the 273 with receding hairlines but not a balding crown, said Trevisan, an epidemiologist at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

The study, released at a meeting of the American Heart Association, is ``reason to lose one more hair,' John Capps, founder of Baldheaded Men of America, said by phone from Morehead City, N.C. ``Maybe we need to put our heads together on it and work out a solution.'

Trevisan and colleagues at the University of Naples plan research on whether elevated cholesterol and blood pressure levels actually make bald men more prone to heart attack and stroke.

``If these data are confirmed, they could be at higher risk,' he said. ``Right now, I have no idea. ... These (elevated levels) are not numbers that place these men in a very high-risk category for developing coronary heart disease. But this may change as the men age.'

If elevated blood pressure and cholesterol are also found in other populations, Trevisan's study would be considered ``a breakthrough observation,' said Dr. Elizabeth Barrett-Connor, chairwoman of community and family medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

Barrett-Connor co-authored the study of multiple pregnancies.

Trevisan and Barrett-Connor speculated that hormone changes accompanying balding and pregnancy might cause the cholesterol patterns they found. Those patterns existed even after accounting for individual differences in age, weight and obesity, and cigarette and alcohol consumption.

In her study of 1,275 women in Rancho Bernardo, near San Diego, Barrett-Connor found that the women who had at least five pregnancies had a nearly 8 percent drop in levels of high-density lipoprotein, which is believed to protect against heart disease. There was no drop in the so-called ``good' cholesterol among women with fewer children.

Like the bald men, the women with five or more kids haven't been followed long enough to know if they actually will develop higher heart disease rates. They were studied for 10 years since their most recent pregnancies.

``I'm not going to recommend women do family planning based on this' single study, Barrett-Connor said.

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