Growing older can be stressful. Increased stress can lead to other health issues as we age. A recent study has shown that stress levels can be measured in our hair through hair analysis. This was accomplished by measuring cortisol levels. Cortisol levels are released by the adrenals into our blood in response to stress.
Since stress is a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, researchers feel that hair analysis may have a unique place in the evaluation of cardiovascular risk. Hair analysis can evaluate our body’s stress level over time instead of measuring a single cortisol level obtained with a blood test.
The study tested 1.2 inch hair samples from 283 community residing seniors aged 65 to 85 to measure the cortisol levels over the previous three months. The samples were taken from hair closest to the scalp.
The researchers found that those people who had higher cortisol levels were more likely to have a history of coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral artery disease and diabetes, stated Sciencedaily.com.
The results from the study were published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM) May 2013 issue.
"The data showed a clear link between chronically elevated cortisol levels and cardiovascular disease," co-lead author Dr. Elisabeth van Rossum, of Erasmus Medical Center, said in the news release.
Rossum said that additional studies would be needed to explore whether long term cortisol levels can be a predictor of cardiovascular disease and how this information can best be used to develop new treatment or prevention practices.
This is not the first study to explore how hair can give us information about stress. Back in 2010, Drs. Gideon Koren and Stan Van Uum from the University of Western Ontario, published another hair analysis study in the online journal Stress.
In their study, they collected 3 cm-long hair samples from 56 male adults who were admitted to Meir Medical Centre in Kfar-Saba, Israel who had suffered heart attacks.
The researchers reasoned that hair grows 1 cm a month, so 3 cm would represent the three months prior to the men becoming ill.