Well-Being

10 Terrible Outcomes of Chronic High Cortisol

One thing that pretty much all stress has in common is a hormone called cortisol. In fact, cortisol is so closely tied to this topic that its referred to as the bodys main stress hormone. Every time stress occurs, whether its physical or emotional stress, cortisol is released in the body. If cortisol levels come back down quickly to normal levels, no harm is done. If cortisol remains elevated for long periods of time (weeks, months, years), thats when you have problems. Chronically high cortisol levels are linked to various negative conditions, some short-term and others potentially deadly.

Heres a list of just some of the negative effects associated with chronically high cortisol:

Atherosclerosis (hardening of articles)

Hypertension (high blood pressure)

Depression

Headaches

Fatigue

Irritability

Sleep disturbances

Weight gain

Decreased sex drive

Poor recovery from exercise

This isnt to say cortisol is inherently bad. When managed properly, it’s a highly beneficial hormone. The positive effects of cortisol are essentially the opposite of the negatives: better cardiovascular and metabolic function, a stronger immune system, enhanced physical performance. These benefits should look familiar they all come from regular exercise. Every time you work out, cortisol is released due to the physical stress placed on the body. Fortunately, exercise is a controllable activity. You can dictate the intensity and duration of your workout to keep cortisol in check.

With unpredictable stressors like relationships and toxic work situations, you dont have this level of control. This is why exercise is generally considered good stress. It causes a release of cortisol, but because youre doing physical activity, the cortisol is metabolized and used by the body and in most cases doesnt remain elevated for too long afterward. With the bad types of stress, this isnt the case; youre usually not able to turn it off whenever you want or control its intensity. Now you understand why people so often say that exercise is a great stress reliever it literally trains your body how to productively manage cortisol.

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