Austin-- There's a big reason balding men should not ignore that thin spot on top.
It could be a signal for increased risk of heart disease. That's the findings of a recent, extensive study by the University of Tokyo.
68-year-old Ralph Mothner shared some family photos. The purpose wasn't to stroll down memory lane but to reveal a family history of male pattern baldness and something far more serious -- that cannot be seen.
"I can go back 5 generations and track bald-headedness and heart issues," said Mothner.
Mothner says just about all the men in his family have died from heart disease, so the study's finding -- showing a correlation to male baldness and increased risk of heart disease -- came as no surprise.
"I had a heart attack about 11-years ago," said Mothner. "I was 57, so that was sort of young. It woke me up to think there could be (a correlation,) because my family history is bald and heart disease."
The research compiled the results of six previous studies with a total of nearly 37,000 patients.
"It's really a large scale study," said Kunjan Bhatt, M.D., a clinical cardiologist at Heart Hospital of Austin and Austin Heart. "Between the dermatology literature and the general cardiology literature this has been ruminated about quite a bit. There is an association, and I think the study kind of hits the nail on the head.
Bhatt says it's important to stress the study finds only a correlation between balding and heart disease -- not that one is a direct cause of the other.
"I don't want balding men to think they need to see a cardiologist tomorrow," he said.
Still Bhatt views the study's findings as another risk factor doctors and patients should examine.
"I wouldn't say that male pattern balding would warrant a stress test, but that coupled with symptoms and risk factors would heighten my concern for someone's risk for coronary heart disease," said Bhatt.
Mothner agrees -- especially after seeing the correlation play out in his own body and family history.
"If you have the markers for a potential heart attack do something about it," said Mothner. "Get it early before it becomes a real problem or it takes you out."
It's important to note the study's link between heart disease and balding only involves crown of the head balding. Researchers say no link to heart disease was found in men with only a receding hairline.
Here's a link to the study: