In a stress response, the body releasing a burst of cortisol and some other hormones. This “fight or flight” physical reaction is helpful when it comes to surviving an emergency – but when the stress is chronic and unrelenting, the cortisol will be chronically high.
The devastating effects of chronically heightened cortisol is a shorter life, of course preceded by many diseases.
Since cortisol is a steroid hormone, it’s not surprising that exposure to excess cortisol mirrors the physical and mental effects of chronic steroid overmedication.
Unhealthy levels of cortisol appear to actually speed the aging process. In fact, researchers say having chronically high cortisol can make you look older – as assessed by facial photographs.
Excess cortisol has been found to shorten the telomeres – the “caps” at the ends of chromosomes that associated with aging clock. Significantly, shorter telomeres are associated with shorter lifespans. High cortisol will lead to shorter telomeres.
And, research indicates that chronically elevated cortisol levels are accompanied by higher mortality risks. In one study, women with high cortisol levels were found to be 82 more percent likely to die than those with normal levels. For men, the heightened risk was 63 percent.
High cortisol associated with abdominal obesity, metabolic syndrome, diabetic, depression and neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer’s disease. High cortisol has even been associated with loss of cognitive function, as research has linked excess amounts of cortisol to shrinking of the hippocampus – the center of memory in the brain.
Particularly stressful for the heart, increase the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease by five-fold, even among people with no previous risk factors for heart disease.
Cortisol responsible for producing stress-related food cravings and excessive abdominal fat, at the same time decreasing muscle and bone mass. In extreme cases, high cortisol levels can also cause excess fat and fluids to accumulate in the face so call puffy face, and the person looks older than his chronological age.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Some herbs can help reduce stress and improve adrenal fatigue. De-stressing breathing and exercise techniques helpful to reduce stress. Check your cortisol today if you suspect you have high cortisol levels, see a knowledgeable (integrative or functional) physician for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan. Three or four times blood samples in different times of the day can show better picture of hyper or hypo-cortisolism.