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Stress is a natural part of life but being stressed over a long-term period can be detrimental to your health. A recent scientific study conducted by researchers at the Linköping University in Sweden highlights the link between stress and heart attacks.

The researchers observed that cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is produced in high amounts in the months before a heart attack occurs. The research whose findings are available in the Scientific Reports journal points out long-term stress as a trigger for heart attacks. According to the findings, one is more likely to experience a heart attack if they go through long-term stress.

“The levels of the stress hormone cortisol differed between people who have had a heart attack and those not affected,” noted professor Tomas Faresj√∂ who was the lead researcher in the study.

Going by the findings, cortisol qualifies as a risk maker in determining the susceptibility to heart attacks. Having a biological marker that can be measured is an important step in the right direction because it will be easier to identify individuals that are at a high risk of heart attacks, and the right counter-measures can be deployed.

Determining stress levels by observing cortisol levels in hair strands

The method of measuring cortisol levels in hair also proved to be a useful approach because it allows scientists and medical practitioners to trace cortisol levels. For example, a person who has been going through stress for a long term duration will have more concentration of the stress hormone throughout the part of the hair strand that grew during that particular stressful duration. It is thus easier to pinpoint how long the person has been going through stress and the extent to which cortisol levels are elevated.

According to the study findings, individuals are will likely experience elevated cortisol levels especially a month before a heart attack occurs. The findings remain consistent even when accounting for other potential triggers such as genetic predisposition, smoking, excessive blood lipids and high blood pressure among others. Scientists were surprised that stress appears to be a strong biomarker for heart attacks compared to the other known risk factors.