How Cortisol Impacts Your Health
When stress builds over time, it can work against you without you even realizing it. And that’s when your health is at serious risk.
In fact, it’s estimated that 60% to 80% of all doctor visits are for stress-related problems. Issues like fatigue, headaches, depression, high blood pressure, diabetes, infertility … the list goes on. That’s why it’s vital to recognize how stress affects your life. And the first step to doing that is understanding cortisol, the main stress hormone.
You can learn more about cortisol here. But for now, just know that in stressful situations, cortisol goes to work trying to provide you with the energy and focus you need to overcome an obstacle. Meanwhile, it can also shut down non-essential functions, such as your reproductive system and immune system. Over the long term, this causes damage. That’s why we at Pardigm.com have combed through research journals to handpick some of the main ways chronic stress is working against you, and how you can start repairing the damage…
Improve Athletic Performance by Measuring Your Cortisol
Did You Know Cortisol Testing Can Help Optimize Recovery and Establish Preparedness for Training and Competition?
Here’s a surprising fact: Sometimes, training more can actually make you weaker. It sounds counterintuitive, but overtraining can set you back and increases the risk of injuries. Sometimes, it’s better to take a break and allow your body to recover. Sometimes, less really is more.
Cortisol and Burnout
How Chronic Stress Leads to Total Exhaustion
We all know how it feels to be stressed. Stress, after all, is part of our everyday lives. It’s that feeling we get whenever we face a new demand and our body goes into high alert. It’s why we often think of stressed people as tense or on edge.
Cortisol and Fertility Problems
Cortisol plays a vital role in our reproductive system. When our stress levels rise, our main sex hormone, gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH), gets suppressed. As a result, sperm count, ovulation and sexual activity can decrease.
To see an example of stress’s role in fertility, let’s turn to the high-stress medical field. In a 2016 survey of female physicians, nearly one in four of those who’d tried to have a baby were diagnosed with infertility — almost double the rate of the general public. Stress played a clear role here.
Cortisol and How it Affects Your Lifespan
Surprisingly, stress (and cortisol) plays a remarkable role in our DNA. And it comes down to something called the telomere. See, when our cells divide, they lose a bit of their telomeres — a protective cap at the end of a DNA strand. An enzyme called telomerase can restock it, but cortisol exposure can reduce this supply. When the telomere is too diminished, the cell may die. And this kick-starts the aging process.
Cortisol and Memory Loss
Do you happen to remember stressful moments better? That’s because high cortisol levels can help you store memories. It makes evolutionary sense. If your flight-or-flight-or-freeze response gets triggered, something important is happening in your life. That’s why the systems that regulate emotional arousal and memory are so closely connected.
However, too much cortisol can also create the opposite effect, damaging your recall abilities. Research looking at 1,225 individuals found those with higher cortisol levels had a more difficult time remembering specific events.
Cortisol and Mental Disorders
It might not surprise you to learn that chronic stress is linked to a variety of mental disorders, including anxiety and depression. In fact, many depressed people have elevated cortisol levels and lower serotonin. Studies show those with depression have their cortisol peak earlier in the morning than typical. And those levels don’t decrease in the afternoon or evening the way they should.
Cortisol and Osteoporosis
When people feel overstressed, they sometimes describe themselves as feeling fragile, almost brittle. That’s not just a metaphor. When dealing with chronic stress and high cortisol levels, your bones are actually more at risk of breaking. The reason? Well, high cortisol can impair the bone formation process. That’s why high levels are associated with lower bone mineral density and weaker bones.
High Cortisol Levels and the risk of Heart and Vascular Disease
High cortisol levels from long-term stress put you more at risk of a host of health problems, including increased blood cholesterol, blood sugar, triglycerides and blood pressure. All factors linked to heart and vascular disease. To top it off, stress is also linked to a buildup of plaque in the arteries. All of that underscores why the American Heart Association recently cited studies that found work-related stress increased the risk of heart disease by 40%.