The Heart-Harming Effects of Elevated Cortisol
Chris D. Meletis, ND (with permission from cpmedical.net, access pin: 587556)
When we consider heart disease risk factors, we often think of cholesterol, homocysteine, C-Reactive Protein (CRP) and fibrinogen. However, research is finding that another overlooked factor may play an equally important role in heart health. This factor is high cortisol levels.
Over the last several decades, studies have consistently linked lack of social support, low socioeconomic status, unhappy marriages and work stress with an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.1-3
Dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which helps control the output of cortisol, is emerging as a likely reason why increased emotional stress is linked to cardiovascular disease. In healthy persons, cortisol levels peak approximately 30 minutes after awakening and levels decline throughout the day, bottoming out around midnight. Physical or emotional stress such as exercise or emotional arousal—even eating a lunch meal—activates the HPA axis. As a result, there is a short-term rise in cortisol.4-5
Exposure to chronic stressors such as perceived work stress, marital problems, and unemployment and high financial strain cause an increase in cortisol levels and a smaller decline in cortisol levels throughout the day. The same cortisol elevation occurs in men with overall negative affect (in other words, men who react negatively to situations they experience) and women undergoing a divorce or separation.6-10