Hair loss and Lou Gehrig’s Disease: Are They Related?
A new study has early hair loss sufferers looking in the mirror with added caution. According to a new study of more than a half million men who ranged in age from mid 40s to early 80s, signs of early balding or hair loss might be tied with the onset of Lou Gehrig’s disease.
For men, the new study provides a much needed wake-up call to be proactive in monitoring their own scalp for signs of early balding, as well as seek the guidance of a certified medical professional should signs of hair loss be detected. As for researchers, the team behind the new study says their findings might provide valuable insight for Lou Gehrig’s disease research, a relatively mysterious neurodegenerative condition that adversely affects an estimated 30,000 Americans (i).
Exploring the Link Between Lou Gehrig’s Disease and Hair Loss
The link between Lou Gehrig’s disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and hair loss was discovered after researchers performed a longitudinal study that compared the hair lines of men at two distinct stages in life: Mid-forties (age 45), and early sixties (age 61).
The study began with researchers asking men to describe the state of their hair at age 45. After polling more than 500,000 men, researchers found that men exhibited hair loss in the following proportions:
- 44% of men reported no balding at age 45.
- 42% of men reported moderate balding at age 45.
- 14% reported extensive balding at age 45.
Sixteen years later, researchers examined the same group of participants for signs of ALS. The results were as follows:
- 11 of those who reported extensive balding at age 45 had developed ALS.
- 13 of those who reported no balding at age 45 had developed ALS.
- As a result of these findings, researchers were able to determine that individuals who experience early signs of balding are up to 3 times more likely to develop ALS.
Researchers are quick to warn that there is no need to panic, however.
“This doesn’t mean that bald people should worry,” explains Elinor Fondell, the author of the study and a researcher at the Harvard School of Public Health (ii).
Despite the correlation, it’s important to note that at least 13 individuals who were surveyed had “no balding” at age 45 yet developed ALS by age 61. In light of these outliers, researchers believe a thorough series of follow-up studies are needed to more conclusively determine how hair loss might be related to Lou Gehrig’s disease, if at all.
How to Detect Male Hair Loss
Hair loss affects an estimated 20 million or more American men. While researchers need more time to determine how hair loss and Lou Gehrig’s disease are related, there is compelling evidence suggesting that hair loss might lead to hypertension and other cardiovascular system issues.
To detect hair loss, men as early as 20 years of age can do the following:
- Monitor for signs of hair accumulation in the shower (along the rim of the tub, drain, and personal hygiene products)
- Examine hair accumulation on combs and hairbrushes. Some accumulation is normal, however extensive accumulation could be a sign of thinning, shedding, or pattern baldness.
- Check your pillow for hairs in the morning.
- Familiarize yourself with the Norwood Classification to better understand what each stage of male pattern baldness looks like.
This health report has been produced by the Hair Transplant Institute of Miami. For additional information on our Institute, including hair loss evaluation and consultation services, readers are invited to contact our office directly at 1-877-443-9070.
(i) “Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Accessed 23 August 2013.
(ii) “Early Balding Might be Linked with Lou Gehrig’s Disease.” Live Science. Accessed 23 August 2013.