Hair may predict heart attacks

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair may be a strong predictor of heart attacks months in advance, said Canadian researchers in the journal Stress.

Hair may predict heart attacks

High levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair may be a strong predictor of heart attacks months in advance, said Canadian researchers in the journal Stress.

New research shows that increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the hair shaft -- a marker for chronic stress -- raise the risk of heart attack.

The findings appear online in the journal Stress.

Levels of cortisol have previously been measured in blood, urine, and saliva, but these measurements only provide a snapshot of stress at the moment. Hair cortisol, however, can provide a longer-term assessment of stress levels. Hair grows about 1 centimeter a month, so a 3-centimeter hair sample, for example, is a marker for stress over three months.

In the new study, hair cortisol levels were actually a more important predictor of heart attack risk than other known heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, and high cholesterol.

"Traditionally, cortisol has been measured in serum, urine, and saliva. All of these matrices measure cortisol levels in the last hours to days and, therefore, do not reflect the stress response over prolonged period of time," said study authors Stan Van Uum and Gideon Koren of the University of Western Ontario.

The researchers looked at hair samples from 56 men admitted for heart attacks to the Meir Medical Centre in Kfar-Saba, Israel and compared these to hair samples from 56 men hospitalised for non-cardiovascular health issues.

The heart attack patients were found to have higher cortisol levels in their hair.

And after accounting for known risk factors such as diabetes, hypertension, smoking and a family history of coronary artery disease, "hair cortisol content emerged as the strongest predictor of acute myocardial infarction," the study concluded.

Agencies

Last Mod: 12 Eylül 2010, 11:59
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