Numerous studies have shown that massage therapy reduces stress and effects relaxation. New research has related cardiovascular mortality to the presence of high stress-hormone levels.

On Sept. 14 MASSAGE Magazine reported on a study that showed a connection between chronic stress and heart attack. The new research shows a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and cardiovascular death among both persons with and without pre-existing cardiovascular disease.

“Previous studies have suggested that cortisol might increase the risk of cardiovascular mortality, but until now, no study had directly tested this hypothesis,” said Nicole Vogelzangs, Ph.D., of VU University Medical Center in The Netherlands and lead author of the study, in a press release. “The results of our study clearly show that cortisol levels in a general older population predict cardiovascular death, but not other causes of mortality.”

In stressful situations, the body responds by producing the hormone cortisol, the press release noted. The effects of cortisol are intended to help the body recover from stress and regain a status of homeostasis, however chronically elevated cortisol levels have been associated with cardiovascular risk factors, such as the metabolic syndrome and accelerated atherosclerosis.

“Urinary cortisol and six-year risk of all-cause and cardiovascular mortality” will appear in the November 2010 issue of The Endocrine Society‘s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

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