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The #1 Sign Your Cortisol Levels are "Way Too High"

Learn what your cortisol is and what happens when your levels are too high. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Cortisol isn't something most of us think about, but it has several roles that help keep you healthy like regulating your blood pressure and blood sugar, managing your sleep cycle, controlling inflammation and handling stress. Cortisol plays an important part in your overall well-being, "however, when cortisol levels become too high, it can lead to serious health problems," Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells Eat This, Not That! Health. Your body will send off warning signals when your cortisol levels are too high and Dr. Mitchell shares what signs to watch out for. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What to Know About Cortisol


Dr. Mitchell says, "The term cortisol has become almost a buzzword in recent years. It has been implicated in various conditions, from bleeding disorders to autoimmune diseases. While cortisol does play a role in these conditions, it is essential to remember that it is only one piece of the puzzle. To understand the role of cortisol in disease, it is necessary to take a closer look at the complex interactions between the endocrine system and the immune system. We can only begin to unravel the complex web of causes and effects that lead to disease.

Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It is involved in a variety of body processes, including the regulation of blood pressure and the metabolism of fats and carbohydrates. Cortisol also helps to control the body's inflammatory response and helps to regulate the immune system. In addition, cortisol plays a role in wound healing and bleeding. The release of cortisol is controlled by the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, which is a system of hormones that regulates the body's response to stress. When the HPA axis is activated, it results in the release of cortisol from the adrenal glands. The release of cortisol increases blood pressure and heart rate and reduces inflammation. Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and lowest at night."


What Happens When Cortisol Levels are Too High

weight gain

Dr. Mitchell tells us, "Cortisol is a stress hormone released in response to physical or emotional stress. It has many essential functions, including regulating blood pressure and heart rate, increasing blood sugar levels, and reducing inflammation. Cortisol also plays a role in wound healing. When the body is injured, cortisol helps increase blood flow to the injury site and promotes the formation of new blood vessels. This helps to reduce bleeding and speed up the healing process. In addition, cortisol helps to minimize the chances of infection by suppressing the immune system. While cortisol is essential for maintaining health, it can also have adverse effects when present at high levels. For example, high cortisol levels can suppress the immune system, increase blood sugar levels, and contribute to weight gain. Therefore, it is essential to keep cortisol levels in balance."


What's Considered Too High

stressed woman

According to Dr Mitchell, "Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland in response to stress. It is released into the bloodstream and has several vital functions, such as regulating blood pressure and blood sugar levels. Cortisol levels can be measured using a blood test, and the results are typically reported as nanomoles per liter (nmol/L). The normal range for cortisol varies depending on the time of day, but it is generally between 5 and 25 nmol/L. A level above 25 nmol/L is considered high, and levels above 50 nmol/L may indicate Cushing's disease. However, it is essential to note that cortisol levels can be affected by factors such as exercise, so a single high reading does not necessarily mean a problem. If cortisol levels are consistently elevated, it is advisable to see a doctor for further testing."


You Experience Unexplained Bleeding


According to Dr. Mitchell, "Unexplained bleeding can be a sign that cortisol levels are too high. Cortisol is a hormone that helps to regulate blood pressure and inflammation. When cortisol levels are too high, it can cause bleeding by thinning the walls of blood vessels. High cortisol levels can also increase the risk of bleeding from the stomach or intestines. If you experience unexplained bleeding, it is vital to see a doctor so that they can test your cortisol levels."


Difficulty Concentrating or Remembering Things Clearly

Sacred mature woman.

Dr. Mitchell says, "One of the most common signs that cortisol levels are too high is difficulty concentrating. This is because cortisol interferes with the hippocampus, which plays a crucial role in memory and learning. When cortisol levels are elevated, it can lead to increased bleeding in the hippocampus, which can damage brain cells and impair cognitive function. In addition, cortisol has been shown to inhibit the production of new neurons in the hippocampus, further affecting our ability to focus and remember things. While there are many potential causes of high cortisol levels, difficulty concentrating is one of the most common and indicative symptoms. Therefore, it may be worth checking your cortisol levels if you have trouble focusing or remembering things."


You Feel Anxious or Irritable All the Time

Shocked young woman looking at laptop computer screen at home

Dr. Mitchell states, "Anxiety is a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease. It is often accompanied by physical symptoms such as a rapid heart rate, sweating, and tense muscles. Anxiety is a normal emotion that occurs in response to stress. However, when anxiety becomes overwhelming or interferes with everyday activities, it may be a sign that cortisol levels are too high. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress. It plays an essential role in the body's stress response, but high levels can cause various symptoms, including anxiety. anxiety can also be caused by other factors, such as genetics or environmental stressors. If you are experiencing anxiety, it is essential to speak to a healthcare professional to rule out other possible causes and determine the best course of treatment."


You Have a Suppressed Immune System

body inflammation

Dr. Mitchell says, "Our immune system is what helps us fight off infection and disease. We can ward off most sicknesses and diseases when it's working correctly. However, when our immune system is suppressed, we're more susceptible to becoming ill. Several things can stop our immune system, but one of the primary causes is high cortisol levels. Cortisol is a stress hormone released by our adrenal glands in response to stress. In small amounts, cortisol can be beneficial, but when levels are too high, it can hurt our health. High cortisol levels can suppress our immune system and lead to weight gain, high blood pressure, and other health problems. So if you're struggling with frequent illnesses, it might be worth checking your cortisol levels to see if they could be the cause.

Dr. Mitchell says this "doesn't constitute medical advice and by no means are these answers meant to be comprehensive. Rather, it's to encourage discussions about health choices."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather
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