London: According to a study by researchers, a stress hormone in hair, which when measured may predict the future risk of cardiovascular diseases (CVD).
The study, presented at this year's European Congress on Obesity (ECO) in Dublin, Ireland, suggests that glucocorticoid levels - a class of steroid hormones secreted as a response to stress - present in the hair of individuals may indicate which of them are more likely to suffer from CVD in the future.
"There is a tremendous amount of evidence that chronic stress is a serious factor in determining overall health. Now our findings indicate that people with higher long-term hair glucocorticoid levels appear significantly more likely to develop heart and circulatory diseases in particular," said lead author Dr Eline van der Valk from Erasmus University Medical Center Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
The team analysed cortisol and cortisone levels in 6,341 hair samples from adult men and women (aged 18 and older).
The participants' hair was tested, and were followed for an average 5-7 years to assess the long-term relationship between cortisol and cortisone levels and incident CVD. During this time, there were 133 CVD events.
The findings showed that people with higher long-term cortisone levels were twice as likely to experience a cardiovascular event like a stroke or heart attack, and this rose to over three times as likely in those aged 57 years or younger.
However, in the oldest half of CVD cases (aged 57 and older), hair cortisone and cortisol were not strongly linked to incident CVD.
"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," said Professor Elisabeth van Rossum, the principal investigator of the study from Erasmus University Medical Center.
The team also acknowledged several limitations, including that it is observational and does not prove that stress causes CVD but indicates that they are linked.