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Getting to the root of your stress

health-and-fitness Updated: Sep 08, 2010 18:43 IST

Highlight Story

A new breakthrough study published in the September 2 online edition of the journal

Stress: The International Journal on the Biology of Stress

has discovered a biological marker in your hair to measure chronic stress.

Researchers at The University of Western Ontario (Western) in Canada and Meir Medical Centre in Kfar-Saba in Israel collaborated to test a new method of measuring the stress hormone cortisol in strands of hair from 56 male patients experiencing a heart attack.

"Intuitively we know stress is not good for you, but it's not easy to measure," explained Gideon Koren, MD, FACMT, FRCP(C), a pediatrician, clinical pharmacologist, and toxicologist and Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at Western's Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry.


"We know that on average, hair grows one centimetre (cm) a month, and so if we take a hair sample six cm long, we can determine stress levels for six months by measuring the cortisol level in the hair."

The data analysed in 56 male patients showed "hair cortisol content emerged as the strongest predictor of heart attack" above other "known risk factors," including smoking, diet, inactivity, genetics and hypertension.

Perhaps in the future, stress tests will include plucking a few strands of hair. However you shouldn't ignore other signs that a heart attack could be near like shooting pains (neck, jaw, shoulders, arms), difficulty catching your breath and chest discomfort.