Cortisol Levels and Too Much of a Good Thing

Stress: it’s a word that our society is all too familiar with. A lot of us are working demanding jobs with demanding hours, and at the same time, we still have responsibilities to home and family. Life can get pretty busy these days. Often, the word “busy” goes hand-in-hand with the word “stress.”

You may have heard of something called “the stress hormone” before. That hormone is cortisol.

Meet the Stress Hormone

Cortisol plays an important role in the body, but it’s important that your levels aren’t too high or too low. The tricky part is that what constitutes as “normal” fluctuates significantly throughout the day. For the majority of people, cortisol levels spike around 8 AM to help get us up and running in the morning, and then they gradually taper off throughout the day. If you work the night shift or a graveyard shift, your body will reset its clock so that your cortisol levels peak around the time you need to wake up.

For our primordial ancestors, this hormone was key to survival, but nowadays we don’t really have to worry about saber-toothed tigers and wooly mammoths. In this day and age, stress originates from different sources, like situations at work or driving through the city or running late to a meeting. Last year, the average American reported a stress level of 5.1 on a 10-point scale, and with the increasing busyness of our world, that number is probably rising.

Why That’s a Bad Thing

Cortisol is the main hormone we see in the fight-or-flight response. Its presence spikes your energy levels, and once the perceived threat is gone, your levels return to normal and all is well. But what happens if your levels go up and stay up for extended periods of time? And what if that happens consistently?

The American Psychological Association (APA) explains the physical and emotional toll that chronic stress can have on the body. Chronic stress can result in conditions including (but not limited to):

  • anxiety
  • insomnia
  • muscle pain
  • high blood pressure
  • weakened immune system
  • heart disease
  • depression
  • obesity

While chronic stress does a number on us by itself, sometimes our way of coping with the stress worsens the problem. In fact, some studies have found that “overeating ‘comfort’ foods [to handle stress] has contributed to the growing obesity epidemic.”

The Good News

So what can we do about this? The first step in addressing the issue of stress (and the accompanying high cortisol levels) is to get your levels tested to see where you stand. And now, you can get your levels tested at LT Men’s Clinic! If you constantly feel stressed or under pressure, schedule an appointment today to get your levels tested and we’ll help you figure out how to get them under control.