Psychosocial stress is a key contributing factor to the pathogenesis of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. We examined the association of urinary stress hormone levels with incident hypertension and cardiovascular events. This prospective cohort study included 412 adults (age 48–87 years) free of hypertension from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis with measurements of urinary stress hormones (norepinephrine, epinephrine, dopamine, and cortisol).
Multivariable Cox proportional hazard models were used to estimate the adjusted hazard ratio (aHR) of incident hypertension and cardiovascular events according to urinary stress hormone levels. The average age (SD) was 61.2 (9.1) years, and 50% were female. Over a median follow-up of 6.5 years, there was an increased risk of incident hypertension per doubling of norepinephrine (aHR, 1.31 [95% CI, 1.06–1.61]), epinephrine (aHR, 1.21 [95% CI, 1.03–1.41]), dopamine (aHR, 1.28 [95% CI, 1.00–1.64]), and cortisol (aHR, 1.23 [95% CI, 1.04–1.44]). The associations were generally stronger among participants <60 years than those ≥60 years, particularly for dopamine (P-for-interaction, 0.04) and cortisol (P-for-interaction, 0.04). Over a median follow-up of 11.2 years, there was an increased risk of incident cardiovascular events per doubling of cortisol (aHR, 1.90 [95% CI, 1.16–3.09]), but not for catecholamines.
In this multiethnic population study, higher urinary stress hormone levels were associated with an increased risk of incident hypertension. Urinary cortisol levels were also associated with an increased risk of incident cardiovascular events. Our findings highlight a potentially important role of stress hormones in the prevention and treatment of hypertension and cardiovascular diseases.