Many of us dread the day when we look in the mirror and see too much scalp peeking through the strands of hair. While hair loss is often thought of as a man’s problem, at least a third of women will experience thinning hair at some point in their lives. In fact, one study estimated that fewer than 45 percent of women go through life with a full head of hair.
It’s normal to lose around 50 to 100 hairs per day, but excessive shedding could indicate a more serious condition. If you suddenly notice more hair than usual falling out, you’re shedding clumps of hair, or your hair seems to be visibly thinning, it may be a sign that something is amiss.
Several factors could contribute to hair loss, including genetics, aging, and lifestyle factors – or your hair loss could be a sign of an underlying health problem. Here are a few of the things your hair loss could say about your health.
When hair loss is unavoidable
Unfortunately, some types of hair loss may be unavoidable. It is estimated that 80 million people in the United States deal with hair loss related to aging or genetics, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. The most common cause of hair loss in women is a genetic condition known as female-pattern hair loss or androgenic alopecia. This is usually noticed with a widening of the part around middle age when the hair strand becomes finer and grows more slowly. You might experience this type of hair loss if you inherit certain genes from one or both of your parents, but it may also happen in response to hormonal changes that occur during menopause.
Hair loss could point to these diseases
While hair loss could be a normal part of aging for some people, it may also point to underlying health issues.
The thyroid gland controls your body’s hormones, and when it doesn’t function properly, you may experience symptoms such as fatigue, weight fluctuation, and hair loss. A simple blood test will tell you whether you have an underlying thyroid issue, and medications can help bring your thyroid back to its normal function.
A lack of iron due to anemia could damage the cells responsible for hair growth. This results in gradual hair loss over time. A blood test can tell if you’re low on iron, and the deficiency can be treated with iron supplements.
Chronic damage to the liver can cause increased scar tissue and reduced function in this important organ. This process is called cirrhosis and may cause hair loss as one of the symptoms. The most common cause of cirrhosis is alcohol abuse, and other causes include hepatitis and using certain drugs. Specialized liver tests can help determine if there is a problem.
Losing your hair could be the first visible sign of heart disease. A review of studies involving almost 40,000 men has found that those with male pattern baldness had up to a 70 percent increased risk of heart disease. Researchers suggest baldness may be a sign of chronic inflammation, which increases the risk of heart disease.
Alopecia areata is an immune system disorder that causes hair follicles to stop producing hair, resulting in round bald patches on the scalp. This disease may affect children, women, or men of any age. Other autoimmune conditions that could cause hair loss include thyroid disease and lupus. Doctors can use blood work to find the exact cause of hair loss and determine a holistic approach to address the underlying autoimmune disease.
Inflammation of the scalp
Another trigger for hair loss in women is an inflammatory condition affecting the scalp. This could be eczema, psoriasis, or a condition called frontal fibrosing alopecia, which typically causes scarring and hair loss at the front of the scalp.
Nutritional deficiencies could be causing hair loss
Sometimes reversing hair loss is as easy as topping up on a missing nutrient. Here are some of the vitamins and minerals that are important for healthy hair.
Several symptoms, including hair loss, can occur when your body lacks the recommended amount of vitamin D. A 2016 study reported that female patients with diffuse hair fall were found to have significantly low Vitamin D3 levels. A doctor can test your vitamin D levels, and you can top up with supplementation.
A lack of protein in your diet could cause your body to shift growing hairs into the resting phase. This condition can be reversed by eating the right amount of protein. If you are on a special diet or trying to lose weight, speak with a nutrition expert to be sure you’re getting enough protein.
Zinc or iron
Zinc and iron are important for keratin production, so not having enough of these can lead to changes in the structure of hair, including brittleness, which can cause hair loss. Try eating more mineral-rich foods like beef, pumpkin seeds, and lentils, and cook with a cast iron pan to boost iron intake.
Hair loss due to lifestyle issues
Could you be losing hair due to these simple everyday habits?
If you’ve noticed gray hairs or hairs falling out, it could be related to stress. ‘Telogen effluvium’ is the medical term for losing hair due to some life event, such as trauma or stress on your body. Try practicing mindfulness, meditation, and regular exercise, or see a therapist to help you work through a stressful period.
Some prescription drugs can cause temporary hair shedding in a small percentage of people. These include some types of blood thinners and heart medications, birth control pills, cancer treatment drugs, and some prescriptions for gout and arthritis. Talk to your doctor to determine whether your medication could be behind your hair issues.
If you use hair treatments such as relaxers, straighteners, hot combs, rollers, or braiding, this chronic hair trauma could cause irreversible hair loss. Your stylist could help you figure out alternatives that will be less challenging on your hair.
As you can see, there are many factors that could be behind your hair loss. If you see an unexpected change in your hair, be sure to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss the underlying reason for the problem. The earlier you catch hair loss, the more likely it is that it can be stopped or even reversed so that you can enjoy a beautiful head of hair again.
-The UpWellness Team