Adrenal glands produce many hormones and cortisol is only one of them. In order to be produced it is important for the adrenal glands to be stimulated by another hormone produced by the pituitary gland called adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH). Cortisol is a very important hormone for human body. It controls blood pressure and the level of sugar in blood. It is additionally in charge with normal functioning of the immune system and regulates the process of inflammation.
In stress and dangerous situation body normally increases synthesis of cortisol. This consequently leads to elevated blood pressure preparing the body for immediate risk. Unfortunately, everyday exposure to stress and chronic anxiety may result in increased levels of cortisol which may linger for certain period of time. Unless one copes with stress and tries to find proper way of relaxing increased level of cortisol may cause damage to numerous body systems.
Increased levels of cortisol may cause a variety of medical conditions. Cushing's disease is only one of them. The state of hyperproduction also leads to problems with memory, chronic fatigue, brittle bones, and heart conditions etc.
Causes of High Cortisol Levels
As it has already been mentioned stress is one of the leading causes of high cortisol levels. Even though our body synthesizes cortisol in stressful situation in order to prepare itself for the imminent danger, chronic exposure to stress may result in increased production of this hormone and lead to different problems in the body which most commonly affect the immune system.
Hyperthyroidism is a medical condition which may be another cause of increased production of cortisol. The main features of hyperthyroidism are rapid weight loss, weakness and rapid heart beat.
The pituitary gland is the master of the endocrine system and controls the production of majority hormones in human body. This gland may be affected by benign tumors which are hormonally active. They may produce too much ACTH which also leads to increased production of cortisol.
Another cause of high cortisol levels is malfunction of the adrenal glands. The underlying cause of adrenal malfunction includes adrenal tumors, both benign and malign.
Even pregnancy may be responsible for high cortisol levels. Namely, during pregnancy the body undergoes huge stress. Some scientists have shown that the level of cortisol in the third trimester increases drastically.
And finally, even though physical activity is good for human body it may also affect production of cortisol. Namely, overstrenous trainings and work up may lead to excessive production of cortisol.