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Cortisol: How It Relates To Stress

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Updated February 22, 2012

Cortisol: How It Relates To Stress

Cortisol, The Stress Hormone

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Definition: Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands that helps regulate blood pressure and cardiovascular function, as well as the body's use of proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Cortisol secretion increases in response to physical and psychological stress during the fight or flight response, which is why it's sometimes called "the stress hormone."

Because of its involvement in the body's stress response, cortisol levels are among the most popular used to measure the presence and intensity of stress in various situations. Cortisol in itself is not harmful, and is in fact a vital part of the body's healthy functioning. However, during times of chronic stress, the body can experience elevated levels of cortisol, which can have negative short-term and long-term ramifications for health. (Read this for more on cortisol.)

Because of the damage that elevated cortisol levels and long-term stress can do, it's vital to have an effective stress management plan that includes multiple layers of stress relief strategies. Take advantage of these stress management resources for short-term and long-term stress management help, and see this resource for stress management basics.

Also Known As: "The stress hormone"

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