Hair proves link between stress and heart attack


The first reliable evidence of the relationship between chronic stress and the risk of heart attack is presented.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario, using biological markers, were able to prove that chronic stress increases the likelihood of a heart attack. Drs. Gideon Coren and Sten Van Aum developed a method to measure cortisol levels in the hair, which gives an accurate estimate of stress levels in the months leading up to a heart attack.

Previously, many studies have found that stress factors such as professional, family and financial problems are statistically associated with the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, including heart attack.

Cortisol is considered a stress hormone, during which its secretion is greatly increased. Traditionally, researchers measure its levels in the serum, urine, or saliva of volunteers. But this only shows the instantaneous concentration of the hormone at the time of measurement, and not its level for a long time.

And although it has been intuitively and statistically proven that stress has a bad effect on cardiovascular health, the effect of chronic stress has not been experimentally proven. It is known that, on average, hair grows by 1 cm per month, so if you take a piece of hair 6 cm long, you can follow the change in the level of cortisol in a person for six months.

After developing a method to measure the level of cortisol in the hair, scientists studied 56 adult men who were treated for the consequences of a heart attack at the Meir Medical Center (Kfar Saba, Israel). As a control group, 56 other patients of the Center were taken, hospitalized for symptoms other than diseases of the cardiovascular system.

Hair cortisol levels were measured in two groups of men, which corresponded to a period of 3 months. The results showed that patients with a heart attack had higher levels of cortisol throughout the period.

After taking into account additional factors influencing the likelihood of a heart attack, such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, smoking and family history of the disease, cortisol levels became a decisive factor in a heart attack.

Although stress is an integral part of our lives, the researchers warn that in order to reduce the risks of a heart attack, it is necessary to minimize its impact on health.

Courtesy of the University of Western Ontario

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