What’s that thinning going on back there? And how about this hairline inching back, up here? Well, if you’re spotting some male-pattern baldness sneaking up, on your or a loved one’s scalp, there’s something you need to know. Balding may signal more than just a cosmetic concern, according to new research.

A new study in the British Medical Journal found that balding (male-pattern baldness) may be linked to increased risk for heart disease, and, what’s more, that the more hair that has vanished, the higher the heart-health risks.

When Japanese researchers, guided by Tomohide Yamada, a researcher at University of Tokyo’s graduate school of medicine’s department of diabetes and metabolic diseases, analyzed studies on heart disease and hair loss and pooled data for a meta-analysis involving nearly 37,000 men, they found that baldness increased heart-attack risk by 44 percent overall.

Men with hair loss at the front and at the crown of the head experienced a 69 percent increase in heart-attack risk compared to men with no hair loss. Those with hair loss just at the crown showed a 52 percent higher risk of heart attack compared to men with no hair loss. And, although statistically insignificant, researchers also discovered a 22 percent increased risk in men who had receding hairlines but no other hair loss compared to men with no receding hairlines.

Unfortunately, study authors do not currently understand the link between hair loss and heart disease and further study is needed.

Male-pattern baldness, the most common type of hair loss, affects some 35 million men in the U.S. It’s defined by a receding arthritis and heart disease adhairline and thinning at the crown (top) of the head. Hormones and genetics are causes, according to Medline. Symptoms include a hairline that slowly moves further back, forming an “M” shape. Over time, the hairline thins and gets wispier. Eventually, the hair forms a “U” shape around the head.

If you, or a man in your life, experience hair loss, make a doctor’s appointment and have a checkup, advise the researchers. Be sure to review all heart-disease risk factors, including family history, high blood pressure, age and smoking.

Treating baldness will not help protect the heart, say researchers, and it won’t lower heart-disease risk. Rather, balding is a potential new warning sign of heart disease, meaning it’s time to check in on all heart-disease risk factors. Many, such as high blood pressure and smoking, can absolutely be improved, such as by adopting a heart-healthy diet, increasing exercise, quitting smoking and making time for daily stress reduction.

Is someone in Your family experiencing baldness and need a heart-health checkup?