Cortisol, what is it? What is it doing for you or against you?
Cortisol a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function, as well as the body’s use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. It is often called the “stress hormone” because it is secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is also responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.
Small increases of cortisol have great positive effects, like a quick burst of energy for survival reasons, heightened memory functions, burst of increased immunity, lower sensitivity to pain. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with chronic stress) have some not so good effects, like impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, decrease in muscle tissue, higher blood pressure, lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body and increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are heart attacks, strokes, the development of higher levels of “bad” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL).
So basically, we’ve got to do our best to keep cortisol levels under control. How?
We can start by trying to make lifestyle changes in order to keep our bodies from reacting to stress in the first place. If that’s impossible, then we have to learn how to activate our body’s relaxation response after the fight or flight response occurs. There are various stress management techniques available to us, and these ones have been very helpful to many in relaxing the body and mind, aiding the body in maintaining healthy cortisol levels: praying, guided imagery, journaling, exercise, listening to Music, breathing exercises, meditation, sex :).
So, what are you going to do about your cortisol levels?