PURPOSE OF REVIEW: This review focuses on the concentration of cortisol in human hair as a biomarker of chronic stress in cardiovascular disease (CVD). We outline the cardiovascular consequences of cortisol excess and provide a comprehensive overview of recent studies investigating the relationship of hair cortisol with CVD. In addition, clinical implications and limitations of the evidence are discussed, together with directions for future research.

RECENT FINDINGS: Hair cortisol may be a reliable biomarker of chronic stress since it provides quantification of total cortisol secreted into hair over several weeks. A growing body of evidence suggests that elevated hair cortisol levels are associated with both the incidence of CVD and poorer recovery and treatment outcomes. Moreover, increased hair cortisol concentration has been linked with established cardiometabolic risk factors for CVD including high blood pressure, diabetes, and adiposity. Hair cortisol is a promising biomarker of chronic cortisol excess which may contribute to both the pathogenesis and prognosis of CVD. However, the current evidence relies on small-scale cross-sectional studies. Further research adopting longitudinal designs across larger samples of CVD patients and healthy participants is required to inform the development of novel evidence-based interventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116
JournalCurrent Cardiology Reports
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019


  • Biomarkers/analysis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases
  • Chronic Disease
  • Hair/chemistry
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone/analysis
  • Saliva/chemistry
  • Stress, Physiological
  • Stress, Psychological/diagnosis


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