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Stress and Your Hair

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I recently had the opportunity to listen and learn to Moshe Frenkel, MD, former medical director of the Integrative Medical Program at MD Anderson Cancer in Houston, TX. As the founder and director of Integrative Oncology Consultants, he speaks that stress management is as important as supplements for a successful integrative approach to cancer treatment. His multi-factorial approach includes nutrition, dietary supplements, stress management, physical activity, and a focus on exceptional patients, those who beat the odds. Click www.moshefrenkelmd.com to read in further detail.
It now appears that stress is an important risk factor for heart disease, too. The field of cardiology or heart medicine was revolutionized in 1959 when the Type A or driven personality was identified as a risk factor for heart disease. We now know the risk factor is more accurately hostility. Canadian researchers at the U of Western Ontario have used the measurement of cortisol (a measure of stress) in hair samples to illustrate that cortisol levels are increased dramatically in the months preceding a heart attack. With that knowledge, it is possible that stress management techniques could then be used to actually prevent a heart attack rather than let events proceed to the culminating event.
According to researchers at the U of Western Ontario, the ideal way to measure cortisol, the hormone produced when you are under stress, is on hair samples. Cortisol is not an easy hormone to measure. The test they have developed to measure cortisol levels in hair provides evidence that hair is a precise documentation of the body’s production of cortisol over time. Cortisol is the hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. In contrast to hair’s long-term record, measurement of cortisol on urine, blood, and saliva is a snapshot of a few days at best. Click here to read in further detail http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/hair-may-signal-pending-heart-attack/article1694502/
It is interesting to note that many an integrative practitioner has been the focus of investigations from their respective state medical boards for the use of heavy metal screening analysis on hair samples. While the EPA continues to screen hair as an accurate record of exposure to heavy metals including mercury and lead, integrative medical practitioners have been charged with using heavy metal screening on hair samples as outside the standard of care for the practice of medicine. Mainstream medical journals now link heavy metals such as lead to chronic high blood pressure and mercury exposure to an increased of cardiovascular events such as heart attacks. Click here to read further http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/04/020429073754.htm as well as http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/09/050926080042.htm.
Because hair has the unique ability to be a long-term record it offers a unique specimen for analysis of heavy metal exposure and now appears to be an ideal sampling to test for cortisol levels. It appears that the standard of care for heart health would be to employ hair analysis for both measurement of cortisol as well as screen for heavy metals such as mercury and lead. Let’s encourage cardiologists to follow the lead of pioneering integrative practitioners and include hair analysis when appropriate to measure both cortisol and heavy metals. Stress management for heart health may be as important as the measurement of heart risk factors such as cholesterol levels. From the Framingham study of heart disease risk factors comes the revelations that happy relationships and job satisfaction, both related to stress management, are very important risk factors for heart disease. It appears to be time to give stress management its due.
Deborah Ray, MT (ASCP)

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