January 27, 2023

What Your Hair Says About Your Health

woman with healthy hair

We all lose hair regularly — 50 to 100 strands daily. That’s normal, as your body replaces them with new ones. Hair styling, high stress levels, and iron deficiency can increase that number. 

However, if your comb, hairbrush, or shower drain has been particularly full lately, a health condition may be to blame. So, it’s important to know when a change in the quantity or quality of your hair means you should contact your doctor. 

Hair Loss and Hypothyroidism

Excessive hair loss can be a sign of various health problems. One is hypothyroidism. It’s a condition in which the thyroid gland fails to make enough thyroid hormone. These hormones regulate your metabolism, which is the rate at which the body turns food into energy. 

An underactive thyroid causes bodily functions to slow down. That includes hair growth. People with hypothyroidism experience thinning hair, and they may also notice their hair feeling dry and brittle due to the body producing less sebum (oil) from sweat glands in the scalp.

Hypothyroidism, which is more common in women than men, typically develops slowly, making it challenging to notice hair changes, dry skin, increasing fatigue, and weight gain. Because hair follows a months-long cycle of growth and rest periods and doesn’t grow continuously, hair loss may not occur until several months after the onset of hypothyroidism.

Doctors diagnose hypothyroidism using blood tests. The good news is that you can control hypothyroidism with medication, and your hair should recover in time.

Hair Loss and Heart Disease in Men

It’s common for men to develop male pattern baldness as they age. However, you shouldn’t assume that it’s the cause of hair loss. 

Studies suggest that men who are bald on the top of the head are at a higher risk for coronary heart disease. Younger men, in particular, should be aware of other heart disease risk factors, such as being overweight and having high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels.

Hair Changes and Other Health Concerns

Excessive hair loss or changes in hair quality can signal other health concerns. For example, noticeably brittle hair can be a symptom of Cushing’s syndrome. It’s a rare condition caused by too much of a stress hormone called cortisol. 

Cushing’s syndrome has other symptoms, including back pain, fatigue, and high blood pressure, but a significant change in hair softness and flexibility is something you should discuss with your doctor. 

Hair loss can also indicate a protein deficiency. While most Americans get enough protein in their diet, problems in the digestive system or gastric bypass surgery can result in the body not digesting protein properly.

Talk with Your Baptist Health Doctor About Hair Changes

If you notice excessive hair loss or changes in the quality of your hair, you should talk with your primary care physician. They can determine the cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment. 

If you don’t have a Baptist Health doctor, you can find one near you using our online provider directory.

Learn More.