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Male-pattern baldness and premature greying of hair are associated with a greater risk of heart disease before the age of 40, according to a new study.

"The incidence of coronary artery disease in young men is increasing but cannot be explained by traditional risk factors," said Sachin Patil, from the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre in Gujarat.

The research team included 790 men aged under 40 years with coronary artery disease and 1,270 age-matched healthy men to act as a control group.

They found that men with coronary artery disease had a higher prevalence of premature greying (50 percent versus 30 percent) and male-pattern baldness (49 percent versus 27 percent) compared to healthy controls.

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Male-pattern baldness showed 5.6 times greater risk of coronary artery disease and premature greying showed 5.3 times greater risk, after adjusting for age and other cardiovascular risk factors.

"Premature greying and androgenic alopecia (male-pattern baldness) correlate well with vascular age irrespective of chronological age and are plausible risk factors for coronary artery disease," Patil said.

They concluded that while hypertension, diabetes mellitus, family history of premature coronary artery disease, central obesity, higher body mass index, smoking and dyslipidaemia were predictors of coronary artery disease - these were to a lesser extent than male-pattern baldness.

Lead author Dr Dhammdeep Humane, also of the UN Mehta Institute of Cardiology and Research Centre, added: "Men with premature greying and androgenic alopecia should receive extra monitoring for coronary artery disease and advice on lifestyle changes such as healthy diet, exercise, and stress management"

The study was presented at the 69th Annual Conference of the Cardiological Society of India (CSI) in Kolkata.