Chronic stress, which is often associated with an elevated secretion of cortisol over long periods of time, can have negative impacts on our health. One of these health consequences is an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
In 2013, Dutch researchers conducted a study on the impact of chronic stress and the development of cardiovascular diseases. They measured cortisol, an important stress hormone, in hair segments of 283 elderly adults. This method is called retroactive, because it provides information on concentrations of cortisol secreted during the last few months. The prevalence of cardiovascular diseases was obtained by questionnaires filled out by participants.
First, the results show that the level of hair cortisol was higher in men then in women. Furthermore, they demonstrated that participants with elevated hair cortisol over a period of three months had an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
Following this study, researchers also noticed that an elevated level of hair cortisol was a strong predictor of being overweight, having hypertension or type II diabetes in the development of cardiovascular diseases.
Finally it would be interesting to see whether these results, obtained with a group of elderly, could be generalizable to a younger population.