Study Reveals Hair’s Potential to Predict Heart Disease through Elevated Stress Hormone Levels

By: | May 28th, 2023

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A recent study suggests that stress hormones detected in hair can predict a heart attack or stroke risk. Elevated levels of cortisol and cortisone double the likelihood of cardiovascular events. This probability triples for those under 57. Dutch researchers examined long-term cortisol and cortisone in scalp hair, indicating prior exposure to the stress hormone glucocorticoid.

“There is a tremendous amount of evidence that chronic stress is a serious factor in determining overall health. Now our findings indicate that people with higher long-term hair glucocorticoid levels appear significantly more likely to develop heart and circulatory diseases in particular,” said lead author Dr. Eline van der Valk from Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

The researchers examined cortisol and cortisone in 6,341 hair samples from adults (aged 18+). 

Hair testing was conducted, and participants were tracked for an average of 5-7 years to analyze the lasting connection between cortisol, cortisone levels, and CVD occurrences. Within this period, there were 133 CVD incidents.

People with higher long-term cortisone levels had twice the risk of stroke or heart attack. Moreover, this risk tripled for those 57 or younger.

“Our hope is that hair analysis may ultimately prove useful as a test that can help clinicians determine which individuals might be at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Then, perhaps in the future targeting the effects of stress hormones in the body could become a new treatment target,” said in the statement Professor Elisabeth van Rossum, the principal investigator of the study from Erasmus University Medical Center.

Nidhi Goyal

Nidhi is a gold medalist Post Graduate in Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences.

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