People with high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and cortisone are twice as likely to suffer a cardiovascular event such as a stroke or heart attack in their lifetime, suggests the findings.
The probability rises to over three times as likely in those aged 57 or younger.
The Dutch research team looked at long-term levels of scalp hair cortisol and its inactive form, hair cortisone.
The presence of the hormone shows that a person has been exposed to the steroid hormone glucocorticoid over the previous months, which is secreted as a response to stress.
Cortisol and cortisone affect the body’s metabolism and fat distribution. But data on their effect on long-term cardiovascular disease is scarce.
To find out more, the team analyzed cortisol and cortisone levels in more than 6,000 hair samples from adult men and women enrolled in the multi-generational study Lifelines.
The study included over 167,000 participants from the northern regions of the Netherlands.
Study participants’ hair was tested, and each person was followed for an average of five to seven years to assess the long-term relationship between cortisol and cortisone levels and cardiovascular diseases. During the study period, there were 133 cardiovascular disease events.
Those with high levels of cortisol and cortisone were twice as likely to suffer from a cardiovascular event in their lifetime. That rose to over three times as likely in those aged 57 years or younger.
For those aged 57 and older hair cortisone and cortisol were not strongly linked to cardiovascular disease.
Study author Professor Elisabeth van Rossum, of Erasmus University Medical Centre in Rotterdam, said: “Our hope is that hair analysis may ultimately prove useful as a test that can help clinicians determine which individuals might be at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
“Then, perhaps in the future targeting the effects of stress hormones in the body could become a new treatment target.”
Cardiovascular disease refers to conditions that affect the heart or blood vessels. It includes coronary heart disease, angina, heart attack, high blood pressure and stroke.
The findings were presented at the European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland.
The AHA reports that approximately 82.6 million people in the United States have one or more forms of cardiovascular disease, making it a leading cause of death for both men and women.
Produced in association with SWNS Talker