Thoughts on Better Aging

Stress and Cortisol

October 4th, 2013

Managing stress is a challenge for just about everyone these days. Whether it’s financial stress, stress at work or within your personal relationships, or just navigating heavy traffic, most of us are bombarded with potentially stressful situations daily.

What most people don’t realize is just how detrimental stress is to your health. When under stress, your body releases a hormone called cortisol. Under the right circumstances, cortisol isn’t a bad thing. We need the stress response that cortisol provides when we’re actually in some kind of danger — that’s why it’s often called the fight or flight hormone. We also need small amounts of cortisol if we are to have healthy levels of energy, and to just generally feel good.
But when cortisol levels are elevated for prolonged periods of time (as happens when under ongoing stress), it will actually cause premature aging. And that’s not all. When the glands that produce cortisol (the adrenals) have constant pressure on them to produce this hormone, they will eventually lose their ability to produce even the small amounts of cortisol you need to feel good.

The result is adrenal fatigue–which will leave you feeling tired and generally unwell — like there just isn’t enough gas in the tank.

Cortisol And Its Affect On Other Hormones

In addition to prematurely aging the body and causing adrenal fatigue, excess cortisol production will interfere with the production and function of other key hormones in the body (like estrogen and testosterone).

If production of hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone is under continued pressure (as will happen with ongoing stress), women can suffer from some or all of the following symptoms: decreased energy and motivation, foggy thinking and difficulty concentrating, low sex drive, weight gain (particularly around the midsection), and loss of muscle mass.

Cortisol And Its Affect On Your Immune System

Stress and excess cortisol production have been shown to cause lower levels of the hormone DHEA. DHEA, and whether or not it’s available in healthy doses, has a direct impact on your body’s immune response. Too little DHEA, and your body won’t be equipped to fight off illness.

The bottom line is that some stress is OK. And some cortisol is OK — in fact, you need small amounts to feel good. But persistent stress and excess cortisol production are harmful. Too much cortisol will cause premature aging, and will cause other important hormones in your body to become unbalanced.

What’s the answer? Manage stress. While this may sound easier said than done, managing stress is important if you wish to feel good, be healthy, and age well.

At a minimum, do your best to eat a healthy diet, make sure that you incorporate some physical activity into your daily routine, and get enough sleep. And then, work some form of relaxation into your day–meditation, yoga, tai chi, reading, swimming, taking a bath–whatever works for you.

For more information about stress and how it affects your body, contact Renew Woman™.

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