Cortisol is a steroid hormone released from the adrenal cortex in response to a hormone called ACTH (produced by the pituitary gland). Cortisol is involved in the following functions:
Glucose metabolism
Blood pressure
Insulin release for blood sugar maintenance
Immune function
Inflammatory response
Normally, the highest levels of cortisol are at about 6 – 8am and lowest levels are at about midnight – but obviously this will be different if you sleep at different times of the day, for example if you are a shift worker. In depressed people, the cortisol level does not decrease through the day, but stays at peak levels.
Some people secrete higher levels of cortisol in response to stress. These people tend to eat more food, and food that is higher in carbohydrates.
To find out how blood type is related to cortisol levels, read tomorrow’s tip.
Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream, as in the case of chronic stress, have the following effects:
Impaired cognitive performance
Suppressed thyroid function
Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
Decreased bone density
Decreased muscle
Increased blood pressure
Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body and impaired wound healing
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Try the following to relax and maintain healthy cortisol levels:
Guided imagery
Journaling
Self-hypnosis
Exercise
Yoga
Listening to music
Breathing exercises
Sex
Higher than normal levels of cortisol can indicate a tumor, Cushing’s syndrome, or patients taking corticosteroid medications, such as those for asthma. Lower than normal levels of cortisol may indicate insufficient ACTH production by the pituitary, or a problem with the adrenal glands. If decreased cortisol production is due to adrenal damage, it is called Addison’s disease.
Blood and urine tests for cortisol may be performed when a patient presents symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome (obesity, muscle wasting, and muscle weakness) or Addison’s disease (weakness, fatigue, increased pigmentation), two severe adrenal disorders. Some doctors also use salivary cortisol tests to diagnose Cushing’s syndrome and stress-related disorders.
Pregnancy, stress and illness can increase cortisol levels. It can also be due to hyperthyoidism or obesity. Medications, including oral contraceptives can elevate cortisol levels. Adults have slightly higher cortisol levels than children do. Hypothyroidism and drugs, such as steroid hormones, can decrease cortisol levels.
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Source: All4women

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