Hair provides proof of the link between chronic stress and heart attack

Sep 03, 2010

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario have provided the first direct evidence using a biological marker, to show chronic stress plays an important role in heart attacks. Stressors such as job, marital and financial problems have been linked to the increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease including heart attack. But there hasn't been a biological marker to measure chronic stress. Drs. Gideon Koren and Stan Van Uum developed a method to measure cortisol levels in hair providing an accurate assessment of stress levels in the months prior to an acute event such as a heart attack. The research is published on-line in the journal Stress.

Cortisol is considered to be a stress hormone. Its secretion is increased during times of stress. Traditionally it's been measured in serum, urine and , but that only shows stress at the time of measurement, not over longer periods of time. Cortisol is also captured in the hair shaft.

"Intuitively we know stress is not good for you, but it's not easy to measure," explains Dr. Koren, who holds the Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. "We know that on average, hair grows one centimetre (cm) a month, and so if we take a hair sample six cm long, we can determine stress levels for six months by measuring the cortisol level in the hair."

In the study, hair samples three cm long were collected from 56 male adults who were admitted to the Meir Medical Centre in Kfar-Saba, Israel suffering heart attacks. A control group, made up of 56 male patients who were hospitalized for reasons other than a , was also asked for hair samples. Higher hair corresponding to the previous three months were found in the heart attack patients compared to the control group.

The prevalence of diabetes, hypertension, smoking and family history of coronary artery disease did not differ significantly between the two groups, although the heart attack group had more cholesterol problems. After accounting for the known risk factors, hair cortisol content emerged as the strongest predictor of heart attack.

"Stress is a serious part of modern life affecting many areas of health and life," says Dr. Koren. "This study has implications for research and for practice, as stress can be managed with lifestyle changes and psychotherapy."

Explore further: US judge overturns state's abortion law

Provided by University of Western Ontario

4.4 /5 (7 votes)
add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Recommended for you

US judge overturns state's abortion law

8 minutes ago

A federal judge on Wednesday overturned a North Dakota law banning abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as early as six weeks into pregnancy and before many women know they're pregnant.

Changing cows' diet could help tackle heart disease

3 hours ago

Adding oilseed to a cow's diet can significantly reduce the harmful saturated fat found in its milk without compromising the white stuff's nutritional benefits, according to research by the University of ...

Low Vitamin D may not be a culprit in menopause symptoms

13 hours ago

A new study from the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) shows no significant connection between vitamin D levels and menopause symptoms. The study was published online today in Menopause, the journal of The North American Menopa ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

HIV+ women respond well to HPV vaccine

HIV-positive women respond well to a vaccine against the human papillomavirus (HPV), even when their immune system is struggling, according to newly published results of an international clinical trial. The study's findings ...

Progress in the fight against quantum dissipation

(Phys.org) —Scientists at Yale have confirmed a 50-year-old, previously untested theoretical prediction in physics and improved the energy storage time of a quantum switch by several orders of magnitude. ...

Revealing camouflaged bacteria

A research team at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an protein family that plays a central role in the fight against the bacterial pathogen Salmonella within the cells. The so cal ...