Massage therapy reduces stress, and so may have implications for preventing heart disease.

Most people will say that stress is bad. It feels bad, ages us and causes physical problems. Yet, research into the stress-disease connection has been slim.

“Intuitively we know stress is not good for you, but it’s not easy to measure,” explains Gideon Koren, M.D., who holds the Ivey Chair in Molecular Toxicology at the University of Western Ontario Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry, in a press release.

New research conducted by Koren and colleagues provides proof of the link between chronic stress and heart attack.

Stressors such as job, marital and financial problems have been linked to the increased risk for developing cardiovascular disease, including heart attack. But there hasn’t been a biological marker to measure chronic stress.

Researchers at the university have provided the first direct evidence using a biological marker to show chronic stress plays an important role in heart attacks. Koren and colleague Stan Van Uum, M.D., developed a method to measure cortisol levels in hair, providing an accurate assessment of stress levels in the months prior to an acute event such as a heart attack. The research is published on-line in the journal Stress.

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