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Stress hormone cortisol: why elevated levels are dangerous

A decrease in testosterone, a decrease in muscle mass against the background of an accelerated increase in body fat are the consequences of an increased level of cortisol. Timely recognition and elimination of an excess of this hormone means regaining good physical shape and avoiding many health problems.

Function of cortisol

This hormone, also called stress hormone, helps the body to mobilize energy in a difficult emergency. Its action is based on increasing adrenaline, allowing you to switch consciousness and completely focus on a dangerous source, changing metabolism so that glucose becomes more available.

Fasting, excessive coffee consumption, stress and other negative factors are perceived by cortisol in as a dangerous situation, as a result of which its level remains constantly high. Chronic excess of stress hormone exhausts the body, causing various well-being and health problems.

Pos Consequences of high cortisol levels

Against the background of a consistently high level of the hormone, the following changes occur:

  1. Muscle mass decreases… The body begins to synthesize energy from muscle tissue, and not from carbohydrates and fats coming with food.
  2. Fat mass increases. Sugar can temporarily lower cortisol. A person constantly craves sweets, which provokes overeating and weight gain.
  3. The belly grows. Increased cortisol causes the accumulation of fat on the belly. These fats push forward the muscles under which they are deposited, forming a belly, which gives an apple-shaped silhouette.
  4. Type 2 diabetes mellitus develops. Cortisol reduces insulin production and triggers the release of glucose by breaking down muscle tissue. The result of these processes is a double increase in blood sugar.
  5. Testosterone levels decrease. The higher the cortisol, the lower the testosterone level.
  6. The body’s defenses are impaired. Cortisol exhibits an anti-inflammatory effect, the prolonged effect of which begins to suppress the immune system.
  7. The risk of cardiovascular pathologies increases. Against the background of high cortisol, the body is working to the limit, which can cause a heart attack, stroke.
  8. Osteoporosis develops. An increased concentration of cortisol impairs the absorption of calcium and collagen, slows down regenerative function, increases bone fragility.

Why does cortisol rise?

There are four reasons for a chronically high concentration of the hormone in the body:

  1. Fasting. When the body does not receive nutrients from the outside, glucose levels drop sharply and cortisol production rises.
  2. Stress. Forces the body to use all available energy to get out of this situation. Cortisol Helps Deal With This… And if in the short term it has a positive effect, then in the long term it is simply exhausting.
  3. Playing sports. Any manifestation of physical activity introduces a certain amount of stress on the body. The longer and more often you exercise, the higher your cortisol rises.
  4. Coffee. Drinking a cup of this drink increases cortisol concentration by about 30% for several hours. If coffee and similar stimulants are drunk constantly, the level of the hormone goes off scale to the maximum. The situation is aggravated by stress and constant lack of sleep.

Signs of increased cortisol

The following symptoms can be used to recognize a high concentration of the hormone :

  1. Weight gain. When fat mass increases, even with a carefully balanced diet and regular exercise, cortisol levels are elevated.
  2. Rapid heart rate. Narrowing of the arteries due to high cortisol increases the heart rate even at rest.
  3. Constant nervousness. Being a stress hormone, cortisol provokes nervous tension.
  4. Decreased libido and problems with potency. Are the result of a decrease in testosterone concentration against a background of high cortisol.
  5. Disorders in the intestines. Stress hormone destabilizes food absorption, which causes colitis, bloating, diarrhea.
  6. Frequent urination and sweating. Cortisol not only increases the frequency of urination, but also increases the excretion of minerals and salts through the sweat glands.
  7. Insomnia with a depressive state. Nervousness and weight gain caused by cortisol are detrimental to sleep and can lead to depression.

How to lower high cortisol?

To keep stress levels hormone under control, it is necessary: ​​

  1. Exercise for a maximum of 45-60 minutes. Hourly physical activity is the optimal time to exercise to keep cortisol from rising.
  2. Eat carbohydrates from BCAA . Drinking 5 grams of BCAA amino acids and 20 grams of any simple carbohydrates is enough to minimize cortisol production.
  3. Eat a special diet. It is necessary to minimize the consumption of alcohol, coffee and other stimulants, increase the amount of healthy fatty acids and low GI carbohydrates. This diet will reduce inflammation and the need for stress hormone synthesis.
  4. Take supplements to lower cortisol levels. After anaerobic exercise, you can drink magnesium. Phosphatidylserine also lowers cortisol, but it is difficult to determine the dosage.
  5. Being able to resist stress. Meditation and yoga can develop this ability.
  6. Laugh more. Great mood and laughter are factors that can significantly reduce stress hormone levels.


A high concentration of cortisol is fraught with the development of a chronic depressive state, an increase in body fat mass, especially on the abdomen, and a decrease in testosterone. To reduce the concentration of the hormone, it is necessary to take a whole range of measures, which, first of all, involves combating stress.