Association of Hair Cortisol Concentration with Prevalence of Major Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Allostatic Load

Med Sci Monit. 2019 May 14:25:3573-3582. doi: 10.12659/MSM.913532.


BACKGROUND The high prevalence of cardiovascular diseases cannot be explained completely by conventional risk factors such as older age, smoking, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, obesity, and dyslipidemia. Results of recent studies indicate that chronic stress may be an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. Thus, the aim of our study was to investigate the associations between the hair cortisol concentration (HCC), which is considered as a potential biomarker of long-term psychosocial stress, and traditional cardiovascular risk factors, including smoking, dyslipidemia, hypertension, and obesity. MATERIAL AND METHODS Fasting blood samples and anthropometric and lifestyle data were collected from 163 apparently healthy men. HCC was determined using high-performance liquid chromatography. Allostatic load (AL) index, defined as an integrated score of multiple interacting systems involved in the adaptation to adverse physical or psychosocial situations, was also calculated. RESULTS We found that many prevalent cardiovascular risk factors, including hypertension, smoking, higher than recommended waist circumference (WC), and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) median values, are associated with higher HCC. Hair cortisol level was also positively associated with the manifestation of individual cardiovascular risk factors such as higher-than-recommended total cholesterol, LDL-C, non-high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, body mass index, and WC median values. Moreover, a significant positive relationship between HCC and AL index was observed. CONCLUSIONS The results of this study suggest that increased prevalence of traditional cardiovascular risk factors is associated with higher HCC. Also, both HCC and AL index might be appropriate markers for the evaluation of chronic stress level.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Allostasis / physiology
  • Anthropometry
  • Biomarkers
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cholesterol, LDL / blood
  • Dyslipidemias
  • Hair / chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / analysis*
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Stress, Psychological / metabolism*
  • Waist Circumference


  • Biomarkers
  • Cholesterol, LDL
  • Hydrocortisone