This can be a huge threat to your health because abdominal fat is more dangerous – and increases disease risk more – than fat located in any other part of the body. Excessive abdominal fat is linked directly to serious health conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Women in particular have been found to accumulate more fat around their waists while they’re under stress.
In fact, a Yale University study showed that even otherwise – slim women who are under high stress levels are prone to put on weight on around their abdominal area.
The Cortisol Connection. What’s the connection? When we are stressed out, our bodies release a hormone called cortisol. Cortisol has been proven to encourage fat storage in the abdominal area. The worst part is if you don’t learn to alleviate stress, cortisol levels stay high even when the original source of stress has subsided. The prolonged effects of cortisol will cause even more fatty deposits to find their way to your middle even when the stress seems to have passed. A recent retrospective study (Nutrition, 2010, Oct 8., Division of Endocrinology, Department of Internal Medicine, S. Orsola-Malpighi Hospital, University Alma Mater Studiorum, Bologna, Italy) investigated the relation between daily urinary free cortisol excretion rate, as a marker of cortisol production rate and waist circumference.
Obese women had significantly higher urinary free cortisol excretion than the normal-weight women. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to have negative effects, such as: weight gain, overweight, impaired cognitive performance, depression, suppressed thyroid function and blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, decrease in skeletal muscle tissue mass and power, skeletal muscle wasting, high blood pressure, lowered immunity, decreased testosterone levels, impaired erectile function, menstrual abnormalities, fatigue, chronic fatigue, chronic pain, headache, migraine, fibromyalgia, muscle pain and poor digestion.
The skin can present with symptoms such as oily skin, acne, eczema, and roughness. Elevated cortisol also decreases the skin’s ability to regenerate leading to wrinkles, sagging, and impaired wound healing.
Elevated cortisol in pregnant mothers influences cortisol metabolism during the baby’s crucial development periods.
Marathon running and cortisol.
Running marathon halves testosterone level and increases the stress hormone cortisol. It is important that the body’s functions can return to normal following stress and stressful events. To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, an innovative adaptive stress free alarm clock, “The Gentle Alarm” (patent pending) for iPhone and iPod touch was developed by a clinical neurologist. The new gentle alarm adapts itself to the users’ particular needs within a few nights. Running marathon halves testosterone level and increases the stress hormone cortisol.
By the end of a marathon, men’s cortisol levels have doubled and their testosterone levels have just about halved, according to a study done at Universidade Federal de Sao Paulo, and published in Arquivos Brasileiros de Endocrinologia e Metabologia. The researchers monitored twenty health men aged between 25 and 42 for several days before, during and after they ran the 42.2 kilometre race. The researchers measured the levels of hormones and muscle damage-markers in the subjects’ blood. Immediately after finishing the marathon the subjects’ testosterone level halved, falling from 673 to 303 ng/dl. The cortisol level rose sharply, from 20.3 to 42.5 microg/dl. A day after the race, the cortisol level had not returned completely to the starting level. A marathon, triathlon or ironman race may cause marked physical stress, resulting in a distinct hormonal imbalance and cellular damage.
What is cortisol? Cortisol is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal cortex in the adrenal gland that plays different roles: Its primary function is to increase the amino acid supply to the liver when there are low levels present. This act, however, serves to increase protein catabolism. Cortisol also serves to increase blood pressure, blood sugar levels and will have an immunosuppressive effect on the body. Thus, when high levels are seen over time, there is also an increased chance of becoming ill due to a decreased functioning of the immune system. What affects the release of cortisol? Potentially, one of the largest factors that can affect the release of cortisol in the body is psychological or physical stress. Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. When the brain stimulates its release in response to physical or emotional stress, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol into the blood. Cortisol helps the body regulate blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It also is an antiinflammatory, an antiallergic agent and reduces the actions of the immune system. Many synthetic versions of cortisol have medicinal uses.
Normally, it’s present in the body at higher levels in the morning after waking up, and at its lowest at night. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response to stress, and is responsible for several stress-related changes in the body.
Small increases of cortisol have some positive effects: A quick burst of energy for survival reasons, heightened memory functions, a burst of increased immunity, lower sensitivity to pain and it helps maintain homeostasis in the body. While cortisol is an important and helpful part of the body’s response to stress, it’s important that the body’s relaxation response to be activated so the body’s functions can return to normal following a stressful event like a marathon run, a half marathon run or a triathlon. Higher and more prolonged levels of (catabolic) cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with acute or chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: Impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, muscle tissue degradation, skeletal muscle wasting, high blood pressure, lowered immunity and inflammatory responses and slowed wound healing.
Stress, cortisol and erectile function.
Recent Japanese research shows that male virility and erectile function is closely related to the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol measured in saliva or blood.
Kobori and coworkers (Kanazawa University, Ishikawa, Japan) were able to demonstrate, that the concentrations of bioavailable cortisol in blood and in saliva show a significant inverse correlation with the IIEF-Score. The IIEF-Score measures male virility and erectile function. This correlation indicates that high concentrations of the stress hormone cortisol worsen male virility and erectile function while low cortisol concentrations have beneficial effects. Clinical Neurologist Dr. Hans Joerg Stuerenburg, M.D., Ph.D. developed and patented an innovative adaptive stress free alarm clock, “The gentle alarm”. Compared to conventional alarm clocks, the revolutionary Gentle Alarm introduces an individualized, natural wake up procedure, which adapts itself to the users’ particular needs within a few nights. This patented alarm clock is leading to a gentle and stress free wake up.
Sudden, abrupt waking in the morning as with loud, conventional alarm clocks and the associated release of stress hormones and cortisol from the adrenal gland can be avoided by using this novel and intelligent self adapting sleep cycle alarm clock. One effect of this individualized, stress free and natural wake up process and the gentle, soft wake up, could be a improvement of the male virility and erectile function.
The fact that stress is a risk factor for erectile dysfunction is no surprise given life in modern America. A million years ago, human stress may have been related to protecting yourself from a wild animal. The stress response is known as a sympathetic discharge—the sympathetic nervous system releases the hormone called cortisol. This is the “fight or flight” hormone, allowing humans to face the situation or run away from it. When cortisol is released, it causes an increase in blood pressure, increased blood flow to organs that are needed for rapid activity, increased mental activity, increased blood glucose and an increased rate of metabolism. It decreases blood flow to organs not needed for rapid activity. The sex organs are not vital for rapid activity and receive less of the blood flow. One way to imagine this response is to imagine someone walking in on you when you’re in the midst of sexual activity. What’s the first thing that happens? Usually,a loss of an erection. This is a sympathetic event. You are startled, you have a “fight or flight” response and your body releases cortisol. Blood flow is diverted from the sex organs.
Unfortunately, today the fight of our life may be in the board room, the office or on the highway. The stress isn’t met with aggressive physical activity output but the stress is real and constant. Cortisol levels become too high and glands become exhausted. The way you handle stress can dramatically affect erectile dysfunction.
Stress is a contributing factor for hypertension, heart disease, diabetes and depression–all of which are in turn contributing factors for erectile dysfunction. Additionally, the penis needs an ample blood supply in order to achieve an erection. Stress constricts the blood vessels in the extremities, including the penis, preventing adequate blood flow. Even short-term stress may affect sexual functioning because the body is not designed to perform sexually while fighting or running away. However, in the case of short-term stress, the body should be able to respond sexually once the stress is gone. With long-term stress, once the stress has passed, the patient may have to treat any remaining stress-related diseases in order to restore sexual function.
Body Building and cortisol.
When designing a skeletal muscle gain program, most people don’t even consider stress management an important factor. The truth of the matter is that high levels of stress make building lean muscle tissue very difficult. Hormonal Imbalances – Having the right balance of hormones in your body is important. Too few anabolic hormones and too many catabolic hormones can sabotage your success quickly. Chronic stress can put all of your body’s hormones out of whack. There is often both a decrease in anabolic hormones like testosterone and HGH, and an increase in catabolic hormones like cortisol – a deadly combination.
Higher and more prolonged levels of (catabolic) cortisol in the bloodstream (like those associated with acute or chronic stress) have been shown to have negative effects, such as: Impaired cognitive performance, suppressed thyroid function, blood sugar imbalances, decreased bone density, muscle tissue degradation, skeletal muscle wasting, high blood pressure, lowered immunity and inflammatory responses and slowed wound healing.
Beauty and cortisol.
A good rest has always been called beauty sleep – but how about a lean body sleep? New research shows that individuals who are not sleep deprived have an increased capacity to lose weight and keep it off. Sleep reduces stress hormones, important for fat loss. Sufficient rest and recuperation effectively reduces our stress hormone, cortisol. When we are sleep deprived, cortisol levels rise. Cortisol controls our appetite, often making us feel hungry even when we have eaten enough. It also raises blood sugar and insulin levels and results in increased fat deposition around the abdomen. To further complicate the situation, high cortisol can negatively affect our sleep patterns, making it difficult to fall or stay asleep when we finally do go to bed. This increase in stress hormone also has detrimental effects on other aspects of our endocrine system, like thyroid gland function which governs our metabolism. The effects of sleep deprivation are similar to
those seen in normal aging; therefore, sleep debt may increase the severity of age-related chronic disorders such as weight gain, elevated cholesterol or triglyceride levels and eventually diabetes and/or heart disease. Growth hormone released during sleep is also important for fat loss. It is not just lack of sleep that negatively affects body fat percentage and the risk of chronic disease – poor sleep quality does as well. Deep sleep is accompanied by an increased secretion of growth hormone necessary for repairing and rebuilding body tissues like muscle and bone. It also helps to negate the bad effects of cortisol. Growth hormone naturally decreases with age and also with increased abdominal fat, leading to a viscious cycle of fatigue, excess stress hormone and increased abdominal fat.
How do you get a good beauty sleep? Try to get enough sleep. Seven to nine hours of sleep per night is optimal for adults. Aim to get to bed before 10 or 11 pm as this is the time when the adrenals, our stress glands that release cortisol, recuperate. Improve the quality of your sleep. Be sure to sleep in complete darkness to optimize the release of melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone which is essential to healthy sleep patterns and it also helps reduce the negative effects of cortisol. Reduce your stress and adopt methods to manage your stress more effectively. Regulate blood sugar levels. Eating regularly will avoid swings in blood sugar levels. Stay away from sugar and excess caffeine.
The Skin and cortisol.
Stress affects every aspect of our lives. Whether the stress comes from physical, chemical, or nutritional origins it affects multiple systems in our body. These three categories of stressors can include accidents, trauma, broken bones, falls, nutritional imbalance, heavy metal toxicity, divorce, marriage, work assignments, financial obligations, and many, many more. A common result from stress, no matter the origin, is our body’s ability to increase cortisol to help us cope with the presenting stressor. This does not mean cortisol is the enemy, or even bad. We need cortisol to be healthy, active, and stress free. Cortisol has many beneficial functions in the body such as regulating blood sugar when we sleep and helps balance glucose (sugar) handling of our cells. Cortisol is so important that it provides approximately 95% of all glucocorticoid activity. Glucocorticoid hormones are made by the adrenal glands, which are the stress regulating glands in our body. Chronic stress (stress over a long period of time) causes the adrenal glands to over produce cortisol. Sustained cortisol stimulation in the body can begin to present with multitude of symptoms. Some of these symptoms include impaired immune system, weight gain, menstrual abnormalities, fatigue, and poor digestion.
The skin is another organ system that can present with symptoms when chronic stress alters our normal cortisol balance.
The skin is the largest organ in our body. It has nerve, blood, and lymphatic supply to it. When cortisol levels increase over a long period of time, the skin can present with symptoms such as oily skin, acne, eczema, and roughness. Elevated cortisol also decreases the skin’s ability to regenerate leading to wrinkles, sagging, and impaired wound healing.
The best approach to improving our skin is to reduce our stress. As mentioned before, stress has many origins, and as we recognize the stressors in our lives, we can reduce them. This will produce less cortisol, and improve our skin (as well as many other areas). Be mindful of your stressors, and look for alternatives.
Pregnancy and cortisol.
Got kids (or are you about to have kids)? Then you’ve got stress! If you have stress, then you also have cortisol, and you need to know what to do about it – because excess exposure to cortisol (the body’s primary stress hormone) is associated with weight gain, increased hunger (sugar cravings), diabetes, elevated blood pressure, immune suppression, depression, memory problems.
What is cortisol? Cortisol is the body’s primary stress hormone. Under stressful circumstances cortisol is part of the body’s “fight-or-flight” reaction, where it helps to regulate carbohydrate metabolism, cardiovascular function, and immune system activity. In this way, a small amount of cortisol is released, for a short period of time. Under conditions of chronic stress, however, cortisol exposure is prolonged – and bad things happen to your health.
Who has elevated cortisol? The scientific literature shows quite clearly that there are three main groups of people who are likely to have elevated cortisol levels: Those who are exposed to daily stress from physical or psychological factors, those who sleep unregularly and those who excessively restrain their eating patterns for weight loss.
Who needs to control their cortisol levels? Everybody, but especially women. Men and women are known to respond to stress with pretty much the same cortisol response. This means that when both men and women are stressed-out, their cortisol levels go up, and when the stress goes away, their cortisol levels come back down. The differences between men and women in stress response come not from physiology, but from psychology.
Research from the University of California at San Francisco shows us that women tend to get stressed-out by different things (family and kids) than men do (careers). Evidence from studies at Goteberg University in Sweden show us that women also are exposed to more hours of stress in a given day then are their male counterparts.
This means that working men and women will have similar cortisol levels at work, but upon returning home for the evening, women still had elevated cortisol levels, while those in men fell back top normal ranges. This probably indicates that the women had additional sources of stress at home (laundry, dinner, childcare) compared to the men (who came home to relax).
Why should you control your cortisol levels? Aside from the strong link between elevated cortisol and obesity, diabetes, depression, osteoporosis, skeletal muscle wasting, (and in men: erectile function problems) and many other chronic conditions, there is also growing evidence that stress/cortisol exposure during pregnancy may pass an increased risk for certain health problems onto children.
In a variety of animal studies, elevated cortisol levels (such as those that might be seen during “normal” emotional distress in humans) have been linked to high blood pressure, memory problems, immune suppression, and mood disturbances in both pregnant mothers and their children. Researchers believe that the excess cortisol produced by the mother’s stressful experiences may influence cortisol metabolism during the baby’s crucial development periods. What can you do to control your cortisol levels?
There are a variety of approaches that can be effective in managing stress and controlling cortisol levels. In addition, Clinical Neurologist Dr. Hans Joerg Stuerenburg, M.D., Ph.D. developed and patented an innovative adaptive stress free alarm clock, “The Gentle Alarm” (http://gentle-alarm.com)
Noise and stress.
Sudden sound is an urgent wake-up call that alerts and activates the stress response – a biological alarm that affects the brain in powerful ways. Because loud noise often heralds bad news, animals and humans have evolved a rapid response to audio stressors: the roar of a carnivore, the crack of a falling tree, the scream of a child. More recently: the explosion of a weapon, the wail of a siren, the crash of the stock market.
Our Startle Response to Noise. Human infants are all ears. They are very conscious of sound and focus on every word they hear, so they can learn to speak. Loud noises trigger a “startle response” – large movements of the baby’s limbs and torso – even while in the womb. Until 18 months old, infants react strongly to distress sounds from other infants. Crucial to survival, this instinctual reaction to noise enables us to go from a deep sleep to a quick sprint in a matter of seconds. . . or to do battle with surprising strength. Today, however, our stress response is getting knee-jerked around by all the bells and whistles of modern civilization. From the clatter and jar of diesels and dump trucks, to chest-thumping teenage car tunes, noise is almost impossible to block. It’s very uncontrollability further adds to the stressful impact.
Sudden Death from Noise. A disorder of the heart’s electrical system, known as the Long QT Syndrome (LQTS), is a life-threatening disorder that can be triggered by a loud noise. In people with LQTS, the electrical recovery of their heart takes longer than normal after each heart beat. Dr. G. Michael Vincent, an expert in LQTS, says this prolongation “renders patients vulnerable to a very fast, abnormal heart rhythm. . . no blood is pumped out from the heart, and the brain quickly becomes deprived of blood, causing the usual symptoms of sudden loss of consciousness (syncope) and sudden death.” Acoustic stress – such as awakening because of a loud noise – can trigger an episode. Vincent notes that “symptoms usually occur during physical exertion or emotional excitement like anger, fear, or startle” Common examples of startle events include sudden noise, like sirens, the telephone, and the alarm clock. LQTS is estimated to cause as many as 3,000 deaths in the U.S. each year – mostly in children and young adults – says Vincent, who founded the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation.
Preconscious Response to Noise-Study. Because of the immediate need to respond to noise threats, the conscious mind is bypassed. It may not be fast enough to deal with a situation that could be a matter of life and death.
University College London researchers observed the process using functional MRI brain scans of human test subjects who had been stressed by an unpleasantly loud noise that was combined with visual images. Even when a fearful stimulus was present only at the unconscious level, the threat signal triggered activity in the attention center of the cerebral cortex, where the fear response is then channeled to other parts of the brain that prepare the body in the classic flight or fight reaction. Lead researcher Jorge Armony said, “It makes perfect sense – you can’t stop and think about certain things, you have to react.”
The auditory system is permanently open – even during sleep. Its quick and overshooting excitations caused by noise signals are subcortically connected via the amygdala to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA-axis). Thus noise causes the release of different stress hormones (e.g. corticotropin releasing hormone: CRH; adrenocorticotropic hormone: ACTH) especially in sleeping persons during the vagotropic night/early morning phase. These effects occur below the waking threshold of noise and are mainly without mental control. Animal experiments show noise-induced changes in sensitivity of cellular cortisol receptors by increase of heat-shock proteins, and ultrastructural changes in the tissue of the heart and the adrenal gland. Increased cortisol levels have been found in humans when exposed to aircraft noise or road traffic noise during sleep.
The cortisol awakening response is an increase of about 50% in cortisol levels occurring after awakening in the morning. Shortly after awakening, a sharp increase occurs in the blood level of cortisol.
To keep cortisol levels healthy and under control, Clinical Neurologist Dr. Hans Joerg Stuerenburg, M.D., Ph.D. developed and patented an innovative adaptive stress free alarm clock, “The Gentle Alarm”.
Compared to conventional alarm clocks, the Gentle Alarm introduces an individualized, natural wake up procedure, which adapts itself to the users’ particular needs within a few nights. This patented alarm clock is leading to a gentle and stress free wake up. Sudden, abrupt waking in the morning as with loud, conventional alarm clocks and the associated release of stress hormones from the adrenal gland can be avoided by using this novel and intelligent self adapting, personal sleep cycle alarm clock. Stuerenburg sees health benefits of this intelligent innovation in weight loss, stress reduction, increase of skeletal muscle mass and strength, pain and headache reduction, enhanced male virility and erectile function, improvement of cognitive performance, fatigue, muscle pain and fibromyalgia. And better general health and physical fitness. The Gentle Alarm is easy to use. In order to be woken up smoothly, sleepers will be guided from the deep sleep phase or dream phase into the light sleep phase by gentle sounds.
Unlike the hitherto existing sleep cycle alarm clocks The Gentle Alarm does not require additional implement such as wristband motion sensors, sound sensors or movement sensors. Users simply set their desired wake up time. After waking up, they merely slide a finger across the screen to stop the alarm. Everything else is taken care of by the patented and intelligent system.
The Gentle Alarm (patent pending) was developed for iPhone in collaboration with Craft mobile and can be downloaded from the Apple iTunes AppStore for iPhone or iPod Touch (requires iPhone OS Version 3.0 or newer).
In November 2010 “The Independent”, London, UK, one of the four largest British quality newspapers named “The Gentle Alarm” for iPhone and iPod touch one of “The ten best alarm clocks” and the best alarm clock – app worldwide. “The Independent” mentioned: “Best alarm clock for stress heads. The Gentle Alarm app for iPhone and iPod touch. This app monitors your natural sleep patterns and produces a personalised waking programme which stirs you from your slumber at the least stressful point of your sleep cycle”.