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Arrhythmia Watch editorial team

Clinical Articles

Hair Cortisol, A New Biomarker For AMI Risk?

A team from the University of Western Ontario have shown that the stress hormone, cortisol, accumulates in human hair and it can be used as a biomarker of risk of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). (1)

Acute stress is increasingly recognized as a precipitant of acute myocardial infarction (AMI). However, the role of chronic stress in developing AMI is less clear. The Canadian workers developed a method to measure cortisol in hair, which allows longitudinal assessment of cortisol levels prior to an acute event. They aimed to evaluate the hypothesis that chronic stress, as assessed by hair cortisol content, is associated with the development of AMI.

cortisol2Dr David Pereg and co-workers conducted a  prospective case – control study including male 56 patients admitted to hospital with AMI and 56 control patients, admitted to internal medicine wards for other indications. An enzyme immunoassay technique was used to measure cortisol in the most proximal 3 cm of hair, considered to represent the most recent 3 months of exposure. Median hair cortisol contents (range) were 295.3 (105.4 – 809.3) ng/g in AMI patients and 224.9 (76.58 – 949.9)ng/g in controls ( p = 0.006). After controlling for other risk factors for AMI using multiple logistic regression, log-transformed hair cortisol content remained the strongest predictor (OR 17.4, 95% CI 2.15 – 140.5; p = 0.007). They therefore demonstrated elevated hair cortisol concentrations in patients with AMI, suggesting that chronic stress, as assessed by increased hair cortisol in the 3 months prior to the event, may be a contributing factor for AMI and this novel biomarker may help to identify patients at high risk of cardiovascular events.


  1. Pereg D et al.Hair cortisol and the risk of acute myocardial infarction in adult men.Stress, 2010; Early Online: 1–9 Informa Healthcare USA, Inc. ISSN 1025-3890 print/ISSN 1607-8888 online DOI:10.3109/10253890.2010.511352

Published on: September 21, 2010

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