Adults’ cardiovascular disease is linked to biological stress. The links between stress and cardiovascular and metabolic disorders may begin in infancy. The purpose of this study is to look at the relationships between hair cortisol concentrations at 6 years old and cardiometabolic risk factors at 6 and 10 years old. Cortisol levels in the hair of 6-year-old children taking part in the Generation R Study, a population-based prospective cohort study in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, were tested. Blood pressure, heart rate, insulin, glucose, lipids, and C-reactive protein concentrations in blood were the primary outcome measures at ages 6 and 10 years. Greater systolic blood pressure at age 10 was related to higher hair cortisol concentrations at 6 years. After adjusting for childhood body mass index (BMI) at age 6 years, the relationship faded into insignificance. Higher hair cortisol concentrations at age 6 years were linked with a rise in total and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol between ages 6 and 10 years, but not at age 6 or 10 years. Hair cortisol levels were not linked to other cardiometabolic risk factors at 6 or 10 years of age.

At 6 or 10 years, hair cortisol concentrations were not independent of BMI, which was related to cardiometabolic risk factors. The links between physiologic stress and cardiometabolic risk factors may emerge later in life.