About Hair Cortisol
Because more than 70% of disease is believed to be stress-related; early identification of the effects of chronic stress is an important step in reducing the incidence of chronic disease. Hair cortisol provides an objective measure of stress over time. Because it reflects cortisol production over a month or more, hair cortisol is less likely to be infuenced by acute situational or individual stresses. In other words, hair cortisol measure the long-term impact of stress, rather than just ‘a day in the life’.
Health problems associated with high or low hair cortisol include:
Heart Disease: In men, elevated hair cortisol levels may predict future risk for heart disease. For individuals with congestive heart failure, higher hair cortisol levels are associated with more severe disease. And, high hair cortisol levels are more common in individuals who have been diagnosed with heart disease and type II diabetes than a normal healthy population.
Anxiety: Studies have shown that patients suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder have hair cortisol levels approximately half that of those without an anxiety disorder. Low levels of cortisol are associated with increased muscle pain, fatigue and allergies.
Depression: Research shows that people with depression tend to have higher hair cortisol levels, although this does not necessarily mean that having high hair cortisol increases the risk for depression.
Chronic Disease: Accelerated progression of chronic diseases like AIDS and heart disease have been linked with stress.
Chronic Pain: Research shows that individuals with chronic pain have much higher hair cortisol levels than those who are pain-free. Elevated cortisol levels over time may also contribute to other health issues.
Our Hair Cortisol References page provides more information on the research regarding the clinical utility of hair cortisol testing.
Why Test Cortisol in Hair?
- Hair cortisol offers a longer-term view of cortisol levels in tissue than saliva, urine or blood. Just one centimeter of hair shows the average cortisol over a month.
- Hair cortisol can be used when it is impractical or inconvenient to collect saliva, a 24-hour urine sample or blood.
- Hair cortisol reflects cortisol present in the body, even when cortisol is being supplemented.