Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Bad Hair Day?" or "Bad Heart Day?"

If your hair could talk, could your hair predict a heart attack?

Seriously. Could your hair be an even stronger predictor (of long-term coronary stress) than even your cholesterol level or your BMI?

The answer is surprising--- it's true--- stress levels are clearly marked in your hair.

Your personal history of stress is written there. Stored there. In your hair.

Cortisol, secreted by the adrenal glands, can be measured in your urine and saliva, but it is only measuring your cortisol level at that moment. Hair is a far more permanent yardstick of cortisol.

And researchers can now measure your hair cortisol content, as a direct predictor of heart attack. Measuring cortisol levels, in hair, was a project of Dr Gideon Koren, a toxicologist at the University of Western Ontario.

"Hair grows about one centimeter a month, so if we take a hair sample six centimeters long, we can measure the cortisol level and determine stress levels for the past six months," Koren says. This is critical, he adds, "because what kills is chronic stress."

Stressors, such as marital or financial troubles, are linked to heart disease. Cortisol, a hormone released during stress — is deposited in the hair shaft.

In the study, published last month in the journal Stress, researchers took 3-centimeter hair samples from 56 male heart attack patients admitted to the Meir Medical Center in Israel. Hair samples were also taken from a control group, hospitalized for reasons other than a heart attack. The two groups did not differ significantly in terms of diabetes, high blood pressure, smoking and family history of heart disease.

"Hair cortisol levels were significantly higher in the [heart attack] group" than in the control group, the study noted. An Israeli-Canadian study has found that high levels of a stress hormone in hair samples could be a significant predictor of a heart attack.

The ability to directly measure this direct link--- between chronic stress and heart disease--- is a way to show you the damage you are suffering from stress.

And to give you the warning you may need, to take action, to relieve your stress levels, before you suffer a full-blown coronary event.

Stress kills. Okay, we know that. But what do we do about it for ourselves?

Take it easy on yourself today. Give yourself a break. Go do something fun and irrelevant. Let yourself off the hook for worrying about your latest crisis. Get extra sleep, maybe a nap.

And when your hair is analyzed, eventually... maybe you can pinpoint the exact day you read this, by the hair-shaft record of lower stress level!

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