It’s no secret that stress can negatively affect our health in many ways. Mentally, this can lead to anxiety and depression, fatigue at work, and feeling irritable and disoriented. Physically, it can cause fatigue, sleep problems, and appetite changes.
When stress becomes chronic and cortisol levels (commonly referred to as the “stress hormone”) become too high, it can lead to more health problems. Here’s everything you need to know about cortisol, and the signs that you have too much of this hormone in your system.
Negative effects of excessive cortisol intake
Cortisol is an essential hormone produced and released by the adrenal glands. Many people associate cortisol as the “stress hormone,” but it actually has many important functions, including helping to regulate the body’s response to stress, controlling metabolism, suppressing inflammation, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, and helping to control sleep and wakefulness. Course, Dr. Jeffrey DelotMD, medical director of consumer health at Quest Diagnostics, explains.
When your body is under stress, it sends a signal to the adrenal glands to release hormones including cortisol and adrenaline. It is the body’s way of preparing for a potentially dangerous, harmful or stressful situation, and once the threat has passed, hormones usually return to their normal levels.
If you are constantly stressed, returning to normal levels may not always occur. In the long term, this can affect many of the body’s systems and processes and increase the risk of health conditions such as heart disease, anxiety, depression, insulin resistance, diabetes and obesity, Dr. Delot adds.
Other issues that can contribute to high cortisol levels include problems with the pituitary gland, an organ at the base of the brain that helps control the secretion of hormones, adrenal tumors, or estrogen. Certain medications can also contribute to high cortisol levels, such as some steroids or Oral contraceptivesTherefore, it is important to work with your doctor to determine appropriate dosage levels and monitoring.
Related Topics: The Science of Stress: What Happens in Our Bodies When We’re Stressed?
Signs of high cortisol levels
There are several general symptoms that may be associated with excessive cortisol intake. Dr. Delot offers a list:
- Weight gain – primarily in the midsection
- Difficulty concentrating
- high blood pressure
- sleep problems
While high levels of cortisol are rare, it can also lead to a hormonal disorder known as Cushing’s syndrome, which is often caused by steroid medications but can also be caused by a tumor in the pituitary or adrenal glands. Some of the common symptoms include a round and pink face, increased fat in the upper back, extreme tiredness, high blood pressure or high blood sugar levels, kidney stones, weak bones, and thinning skin, [easy] bruising, and slow healing,” Dr. Delot says.
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What can you do to reduce cortisol levels?
The first step is to consult a medical professional.
If you suspect you may have high cortisol levels, it’s important to see your health care provider, where they can order a blood test to measure cortisol levels, says Dr. Dilot. Because symptoms of high cortisol can also be associated with other health conditions and problems, it’s important to get confirmation about what’s causing or not causing your symptoms.
Once you know the source of your high cortisol, you can take steps to treat it.
Dr. Dilot explains that ways to reduce cortisol levels depend on the root cause. For Cushing’s syndrome, you will usually need medical interventions such as medications and/or surgery. However, finding ways to manage stress levels, eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, and making sure you get enough sleep can have a positive effect on managing cortisol levels as well as your overall health.
Dr. Trent Orvanus, MD, ABIHM, The Director of Integrative and Functional Cardiology agrees that sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits are essential.
High cortisol levels can lead to increased insomnia, but lack of sleep can also lead to increased insomnia. “It’s a cyclical relationship, so do your part to get at least eight hours of sleep every night,” says Dr. Orvanos. In addition, incorporate regular movement and exercise into your life, and consider following a low-carb diet for weight management. Excess weight also has a somewhat cyclical relationship with cortisol, just as sleep does. Therefore, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle and weight. healthy.
Finally, do your best to practice stress management, whether it’s through meditation, breathing exercises, or whatever works for you. Dr. Orvanos recommends this cardio exercise:
- First, take a slow deep breath.
- Draw your attention to your chest around your heart.
- Next, consider and recall or recall a situation, person, or thing in which you felt positive emotions such as gratitude, appreciation, and love. Try to really remember how you felt in your body and mind. In return, your heart will generate a healthy rhythmic pattern, which helps lower your stress levels.
Next up: Tips to relieve stress: 4 easy steps to de-stress
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