Doctors may someday be able to predict a heart attack by means of a person’s hair. Researchers from the University of Western Ontario in Canada have found out that the stress hormone called cortisol may actually be measured in hair. Cortisol is a type of hormone that the body releases during stress and has been associated with heart attacks.
The team of researchers, led by Gideon Koren, took hair samples from 120 men who were also admitted at the cardiac unit of the Meir Medical Center located in Israel. Of the 120 patients, half had been diagnosed with a heart attack upon admission while the others were treated for chest pain and infection. The researchers then analyzed the cortisol levels of the collected hair 1.2 inches closest to the scalp. This represented hair growth occurring around the past three months.
Results showed that cortisol levels were found significantly higher in those men who had heart attacks as compared to those diagnosed with other illnesses. Among those found to have the highest levels of cortisol, 68 percent experienced a heart attack as compared to 32 percent of those with the lowest cortisol levels. The results still held even after other risk factors such as cholesterol levels and body mass index were considered.
Although the research may require further studies involving a larger number of participants, the researchers believe that this discovery may possibly lead the development of a non-invasive test that may be used by doctors to identify patients who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease.