Thursday, September 29, 2011

AARP story on a "hair test" and heart disease opens a Pandora's Box (with me, at least)

The AARP has been reporting a number of factors that are predictive of heart disease.  Perhaps the AARP laid an egg, or at least started something, with me at least, on a story today. Here goes.

Apparently elevated cortisol levels in (scalp?) hair can be predictive of future heart disease, according to one study, probably in both men and women. The AARP link ("What your hair says about your heart") is (website url) here. Now hear this: The study doesn’t go into whether loss of extremity hair (especially the lower legs) in early middle age is predictive of heart disease, but it makes sense that it could be related to poor circulation, possible (adult-onset) diabetes (and sometimes cigarette smoking), and  this cosmetic embarrassment could become moderately predictive of future heart artery blockages.  Check this "Health Boards" link.    Peter Benchley actually mentioned this problem in his novel “Jaws” and attributed it to constant chafing of clothing and socks [on his policeman lead character]; on wonders about all the “results” on men from long stockings and garters of IBM’s and EDS’s dress codes in the 60s.  Maybe socklessness is a good thing.   And maybe early male pattern baldness (of the scalp) is slightly predictive of later balding legs, and maybe (below) slightly increased prostate cancer risk.  I’d hate to take an interim job that required wearing of shorts  (letter carrier?); and maybe that 60+ lifeguard who got fired from a job on Long Island (NBC story) for his “modesty” was on to something.   I recall Dr. Phil's term for all of this, "tissue death". As I write (or type) this, I remember another controversy: hair tests for drug use, that sometimes life insurance companies require. 

AARP also links to a story about “Type D Personalities” (distressed, but not necessarily depressed) as having elevated risks, outside of the normal measures of cholesterol and weight.  CNN has been reporting that the size of cholesterol particles is predictive, since larger particles don’t stick to artery walls and create blockages.

AARP also supported a study, published in Human Reproduction (main link) which apparently finds that men who have been fathers are less likely to die of heart attacks at a particular age, but the cause is not clear-cut.  Apparently fatherhood helps, regardless of marriage, so childlessness could be related to other genetic markers that increase heart disease.   Other studies have found that fatherhood in marriage (with childcare responsibilities) actually lower testosterone levels in men.  (Could that mean that non-father gay men have higher testosterone than married fathers? Good question.  How would having childcare responsibilities in a two-dad family with adopted children affect testosterone?)

We don’t like to admit it, but lower testosterone levels later in life in men could be somewhat protective against prostate cancer, at least the more aggressive forms of it.  So the old Army joke (in my case, at least, in 1969), “you’re losing hormones”, may have a twist.

AARP opened a "Pandora's Box", at least with me, on this story, Maybe this sidebar belongs in Richard Kelly's film "The Box". 

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