Commonly prescribed hair loss drug might lower risk of heart disease

Image of a man sitting on a couch checking his hair in the mirror

A new NHLBI-funded study finds a medication used to treat two common men’s health condition is linked with lower cholesterol and other heart healthy benefits.

The medication finasteride, more commonly known as Propecia or Proscar, is prescribed to men to treat male pattern baldness and enlarged prostate. Finasteride works by blocking a protein found in hair follicles and the prostate gland that activates testosterone, which has been suspected to play a role in atherosclerosis. Analyzing data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2016, researchers found a significant link between men who had taken finasteride and lower cholesterol levels – on average, 30 points less than men who were not on the medication. 

In a follow up study, the researchers dosed finasteride to mice that were genetically predisposed to develop atherosclerosis along with a high-fat, high-cholesterol Western diet. They found that the highest dose led to reduced cholesterol, delayed development of atherosclerosis, and reduced liver inflammation.

According to the study authors, “our data unveil finasteride as a potential treatment to delay cardiovascular disease in people by improving the plasma lipid profile.”

The research is published in the Journal of Lipid Research.

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American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Everyday Health
University of Illinois Urbana-Champagne