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How stressed are you? Scientists may soon find out… by looking at your hair

How stressed are you? Scientists may soon find out by looking at your HAIR

  • Research suggests that the cortisol concentration in the hair can indicate how stressed you are
  • Researchers studied levels in hair in nearly 1,300 women in Mexico and Iceland
  • The top fifth stressed women had almost a quarter more cortisol concentration

If you feel stressed, you can pull out your hair.

But scientists may now be able to detect just how much pressure you’re really under by inspecting the locks themselves.

Researchers have found that they can accurately detect the levels of cortisol – the body’s main stress hormone – in your hair.

Until now, scientists could only recognize the stress hormone in blood, urine or saliva.

The team said the results suggest measuring the hormone in the hair could be a good way to identify chronic stress.

The condition can cause anxiety, insomnia, high blood pressure, and even a weakened immune system over time.

A study of nearly 1,300 women in Mexico and Iceland found that the top fifth of stressed people had nearly a quarter more cortisol in their hair than those in the bottom fifth

What is the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol?

Cortisol is considered nature’s built-in alarm system.

While stress isn’t the only reason it’s produced, it’s sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone” because it’s released when the body is in “fight or flight” mode.

It is produced in the kidneys, excreted into the bloodstream.

Normally, the body produces higher levels in the morning and lower at night.

But if levels remain too high for too long, it can cause a range of health problems, including anxiety, depression, heart disease and sleep problems.

It can also cause a condition called Cushing’s syndrome, which causes rapid weight gain, skin that bruises easily, muscle weakness, and diabetes.

The study, published in PLOS Global Public Healthanalyzed hair samples from 881 women in Mexico and 398 women in Iceland.

Researchers took the hair from the root and analyzed the 3-cm section closest to their scalp in a machine.

Hair grows 1 cm per month, so the area represented the last three months.

The same women were then given a 10-item survey asking them how stressed they felt.

Questions asked them the extent to which they ‘found their lives unpredictable, uncontrollable and overloaded’.

They answered on a five-point scale, and researchers divided the respondents into five groups based on their total scores, which indicated how stressed they were.

Women who scored in the top fifth for stress levels had 24.3 percent higher cortisol levels than those in the bottom fifth, the results showed.

Research author Dr. Rebekka Lynch, of the University of Reykjavik, said it suggests measuring cortisol in hair could show promise in diagnosing chronic stress.

The researchers wrote: ‘A link between perceived stress and’ [hair cortisol concentration] was found in a sample of women from two different geographical and cultural backgrounds.

‘[It supports] the hypothesis that [hair cortisol concentration] is a viable biomarker in studies of chronic psychological stress.’

Cortisol is considered nature’s built-in alarm system.

While stress isn’t the only reason it’s produced, it’s sometimes referred to as the “stress hormone” because it’s released when the body is in “fight or flight” mode.

Normally, the body produces higher levels in the morning and lower at night.

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