Hair loss may not be a medically serious issue, but for many people it causes a great deal of emotional distress. Our hair is closely linked to our sense of identity, and when it starts to thin or fall out, it can be upsetting and even lead to a change in personality.
When it comes to seeking a cure for hair loss, it can sometimes feel like negotiating a minefield. The NHS advises people to seek medical advice if the hair loss has occurred suddenly, falls out in clumps to leave bald patches, or if the scalp is itchy. Occasionally, it may be a sign of a serious underlying illness.
However, the majority of the time, hair loss is the result of stress, nutritional deficiency, or male or female pattern baldness. The main treatment for male pattern baldness is finasteride. Minoxidil can also be used to treat male and female pattern baldness, although neither of them are available on the NHS.
One unlikely therapy for hair loss that is often mentioned is exercise. It can be hard to see the link at first glance, and there seems to be little in the way of hard scientific evidence to make out a substantial case. However, it is interesting to learn more about the reasons why some healthcare professionals do believe that exercise promotes healthy hair.
The hair grows in a cycle with three phases. The first phase is the active growth stage known as anagen, when the hair shaft emerges from the follicle in the scalp. This phase can last for several years. The second phase is known as catagen, when the hair stops growing and the hair follicle begins to shrink.
The final phase in the cycle is known as telogen, and is a resting phase when growth is temporarily paused. When we are under periods of stress, the anagen phase of the hair growth cycle may be shortened, and the body may move prematurely into the resting telogen phase. This can slow down hair growth and lead to a less full head of hair.
There is a delay of a few months between the resting phase being entered and the thinning hair becoming apparent. It is not clear why this happens, but the good news is that in many cases it is temporary, and the hair grows back fully within 12 months.
Some scientists believe that the chances of a full recovery can be improved by exercise, because it improves blood circulation and increases the amount of oxygen reaching the blood cells, including those connected to the hair follicles.
Another reason that exercise is beneficial, besides being good for our overall health, is that it reduces stress levels, therefore guarding against hair-loss triggers in the first place.
However, exercise may not be so helpful for men who suffer from male pattern baldness, because this is a hereditary condition caused by a reaction to certain hormones.
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