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Cortisol increases heart health risks

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Individuals who regularly feel high levels of stress may benefit from cortisol testing to determine if their levels of the stress hormone are within a healthy range. A new study has found that consistently high levels of cortisol are associated with an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

Researchers from VU University Medical Center in the Netherlands examined the effects of the hormone in 861 elderly participants. They measured participants' cortisol levels at the beginning of the study and tracked their medical records until their death.

The results of the investigation showed that elevated levels of cortisol increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular problems fivefold.

"Cortisol is an important component of the stress system of the human body but in higher concentrations can be harmful," said Nicole Vogelzangs, who led the study. "This finding significantly adds evidence to the belief that cortisol can be damaging to the cardiovascular system."

She added that previous research had looked into the heart health effects of cortisol in living people, but that this is the first study to show that high levels of the hormone increase the risk of death.

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