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Cortisol testing of hair may predict heart risk

Category: Hormones and Metabolism

Individuals who regularly feel stress in their daily lives may want to consider seeking cortisol testing, as a recent study found that measurements of the stress hormone in the hair may accurately predict the risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Cortisol is a hormone that the body releases during times of stress. It has been well established that stress can contribute to poor heart health. However, measuring cortisol through traditional urine or blood tests only shows doctors an individual's stress level at the time of the screening

In order to find a better predictor of heart risk due to stress, researchers from Western Ontario University took hair samples from 56 patients who had been hospitalized for heart attacks and 56 patients who had been hospitalized for other reasons.

They found that those who had recently experienced a heart attack had higher levels of cortisol in their hair. Additionally, the samples allowed investigators to look back several months to get a picture of the patient's recent stress history.

"Intuitively we know stress is not good for you, but it's not easy to measure," said Gideon Koren, who led the research. "This study has implications for research and for practice, as stress can be managed with lifestyle changes and psychotherapy."

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