What Hair Reveals About the Heart

Your Locks can Say a Lot




Researchers at the University of Western Ontario are the first to use a biological marker in human hair to provide direct evidence that chronic stress plays an important role in causing heart attacks. In the past, chronic stressors such as job, marital and financial problems, have all been linked to an increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease and heart attack, but until now there hasn’t been a biological marker to measure the major risk factors.

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

Cortisol is widely considered to be the main stress hormone, because stress activates its secretion. Traditionally, it’s been measured in blood serum, urine and saliva, but that only monitors stress at the time of measurement, not over longer periods of time.

In the study, hair samples three centimeters long, corresponding to about three months of hair growth, were collected from hospitalized patients who had suffered a heart attack, and then compared with hair samples from other patients. The heart attack patients were found to have significantly higher levels of cortisol in their hair, compared to the control group. This finding provides a new, non-invasive way of testing a patient’s risk.

Edit ModuleShow Tags

More from Natural Awakenings

Women Live Longer When Surrounded by Greenery

In a Harvard study, women living in the greenest areas had a 12 percent lower mortality rate over an eight-year period.

Vitamin D plus Calcium Lowers Cancer Risk

Postmenopausal women that took D3 and calcium daily had a lower cancer rate four years later than women that didn’t.

Less Salt Reduces Nighttime Potty Visits

Japanese men and women that reduced salt in their diet made fewer trips to the bathroom at night, while those that increased salt intake made more.

Early Birds Eat Better and Exercise More

People that rise early make healthier food choices and are more physically active throughout the day, say researchers.

Sufficient Sleep Supports Immunity

Fewer hours of sleep was linked to a depressed immune system in a University of Washington study that had ruled out genetic factors as contributors.
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags