Taking stress maybe not be good for your heart as a new study suggests that long-term stress may lead to an increased risk of a heart attack. The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, indicated that people with higher levels of cortisol are at an increased risk of a heart attack.
“The levels of the stress hormone cortisol differed between people who have had a heart attack and those not affected. This suggests that cortisol in hair may be a new risk marker for heart attacks,” said Tomas Faresjo from the Linkoping University in Sweden.
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Cortisol is a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, including metabolism and the immune response. It also has a very important role in helping the body respond to stress. To study the long-term stress due to a lack of reliable methods, the team improved the use of a new biomarker, in which they measure the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in hair.
This enables measurements of cortisol levels backward in time, similar to the growth rings in a tree. This analysis method is at the moment only available in research settings. In the present study, the researchers used hair samples of length between 1 and 3 centimeters, corresponding to 1-3 months of hair growth. They measured cortisol levels in hair samples from 174 men and women in professional life who had been admitted for myocardial infarction to cardiology clinics.
As a control group, the researchers used hair samples from more than 3,000 similarly-aged participants in the Swedish SCAPIS study (Swedish CardioPulmonary bioImage Study). The researchers showed that patients who suffered a heart attack had statistically significantly higher levels of cortisol during the month preceding the event. “It’s surprising that this biomarker for long-term stress seems to be strong even compared with traditional cardiovascular risk factors,” said Tomas Faresjo. (IANS)