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Stress may increase heart death risk

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Those who have high levels of stress-induced hormone cortisol may be at an increased risk of dying due to cardiovascular disease, a recent study from the Netherlands has suggested.

Scientists at the University Medical Center conducted research on people aged 65 and upwards. At the beginning of the study, the 861 participants provided urine samples, which were used to measured for cortisol, a hormone produced by the body to help it recover from psychological stress. They were then monitored over the six following years.

The results, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, eventually revealed that those whose urine provided the highest readings of cortisol, were five times more likely to die from cardiovascular conditions, such as heart attacks and strokes.

No links were found between high levels of cortisol and other causes of death, The Telegraph points out, quoting Dr Nicole Vogelzangs, lead author of the study, as saying: “Previous studies have suggested that cortisol might increase the risk of cardiovascular mortality, but until now, no study had directly tested this hypothesis.

“The results of our study clearly show that cortisol levels in a general older population predict cardiovascular death, but not other causes of mortality.“

The BBC spoke to Ellen Mason, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation, who said: “Stress is already associated with an increased risk of heart disease and this study throws up more evidence about the role of cortisol.“

Images: Wikimedia Commons

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