High Cortisol Levels Associated With Cardiovascular Death

Relationship exists even in individuals without pre-existing cardiovascular disease
By Monica Smith
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Sept. 16 (HealthDay News) -- High levels of cortisol strongly predict cardiovascular death, even in people without pre-existing cardiovascular disease (CVD), according to research published online Aug. 25 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Nicole Vogelzangs, Ph.D., of the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and colleagues assessed baseline urinary cortisol levels in 861 subjects, aged 65 and older, and followed them for six years to examine the role of cortisol levels in predicting all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in this population.

During a mean of 5.7 years, 183 subjects died, 41 of them from CVD. The researchers found that urinary cortisol levels did not appear to increase the risk of all-cause mortality but were associated with CVD-related death. Those in the highest tertile of urinary cortisol had a five-fold higher risk of death from CVD. The effect was consistent across populations of individuals with and without CVD at baseline (P interaction = .78).

"High cortisol levels strongly predict cardiovascular death among both persons with and without pre-existing CVD. The specific link with cardiovascular, and not other causes of mortality, suggests that high cortisol levels might be particularly damaging to the cardiovascular system," the authors write.

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