I turned 40 not long ago and a business acquaintance that I have never met in person said to me “next thing you know, your hair is going to start falling out”. Little did he know that I’m very advanced in that department. This article from the April 27 edition of STLtoday.com was distributed by the MHA and I forgot about it until I had that conversation.
I saw the title and thought “man, what a great story to share on the blog”….by the way, my sons are destined to be bald some day. Obviously I’m hair growth challenged, my father is bald, his father was bald and my wife’s father is bald. My dad told me a long time ago, “God only made a few perfect heads, the rest he put hair on”. I’ve never been bothered by being bald and in actuality I enjoy it, I guess when you grow up in a world in which almost every formidable male figure in your life is bald, you begin to view bald as the norm and not the exception.
Men, if you are going bald, blame your mother. Actually, her father likely is the culprit — if he had hair loss, you are more likely to experience the same fate.
Male pattern baldness — a receding hairline or less hair at the crown of the head — is caused by excessive amounts of a potent hormone, dehydrotestosterone, which is made from testosterone.
Males with baldness have a genetic predisposition because of abnormalities of the testosterone receptor gene. Dihydrotestosterone causes hair follicles to become thinner, and hair becomes very soft and fragile (the classical “peach fuzz”) and then disappears. Baldness also can be caused by hypothyroidism, iron deficiency and chemotherapy.
Nearly half of men have male pattern baldness — also known as androgenic alopecia — by the time they turn 50. By 80 years, three out of four men and half of women have male pattern baldness.
Males who lose hair on their head usually find it very easy to grow beards. Stress accelerates the loss of hair.
Two types of drugs have been shown to slow male pattern baldness. The first of these is topical minoxidil, which increases blood flow to the scalp. The other class are two drugs, finasteride and dutasteride, which block the conversion of testosterone to dehydrotestosterone.
Wonder products for hair restoration do not work. A laser hair comb has been shown to increase overall hair growth. It needs to be used 15 minutes a day for eight to 16 weeks to see effects.
Wigs, toupees or hair transplants — moving a small amount of skin with hair follicles from the back of the head to where you want hair to grow — also can give men the appearance they want.
But why fight baldness? I prefer to tell my patients that it is best to accept that being bald is as sexy as Yul Brynner, Capt. Jean-Luc Picard of “Star Trek: The Next Generation” and Prince William.
SLUCare physician John Morley is director of geriatrics at St. Louis University and a geriatrician at St. Louis VA Medical Center. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. The Aging Successfully column for seniors rotates each week with XX Files, a women’s health column.