Stress, Cortisol, & BP

So, here we are, feeling somewhat jaded by the all-too-familiar new levels of stress with which we’re all living. When our body is stressed, it revs up some of its hormone production. One of the most important stress hormones the body makes is cortisol. Cortisol plays a role in numerous, important functions in our body. The function most of us are familiar with is the “fight or flight” response. It’s the body’s way of trying to protect us from a threat to our survival. Kind of like a home security system for our body. If it detects a threat trying to break into our body-home, it sets off sirens to alert your body to the perceived danger. In this siren-induced situation—and with the help of some other “buddy” stress hormones—it narrows our blood vessels and increases our heart rate. And if you’ve been reading the Circulatory and/or our eBook, you know that those conditions make our hearts pump harder and faster and increase our blood pressure.

That’s not to say that we don’t benefit from cortisol. It’s of enormous importance to our good health and survival. It’s just that too much of it over a prolonged period of time can be detrimental. For example, cortisol has a role in reducing inflammation in the body, but over time, prolonged exposure to cortisol can turn that decrease in inflammation into suppressed immune function. And cortisol’s role in “fight or flight” can save us from a dangerous situation, but prolonged exposure over time can (as noted above) give us high blood pressure.

But life is so stressful right now! So what can we do about this?

Let’s take a deep breath. I mean it. It can help more than you’d think.

First off, none of us are alone in struggling with what’s happened the last few months. Humans are animals, and all animals experience loneliness. We’re also all experiencing various symptoms of being over-stressed. We can’t avoid it. The best we can do is try to manage it. There are several ways to deal with stress naturally, which I’ve outlined in a previous Circulatory.

Additionally, as a general note, it’s important to take small proactive steps every day to maintain good health and keep stress levels down. Eat lots of naturally colorful vegetables (at least 3-6), eat 2 or 3 fruits, lean meats, fish, whole grains, beans, low-fat dairy, drink enough water, move your body, breathe, laugh, hum, try to connect with people, meditate, and enjoy the outdoors while social distancing and/or wearing a mask!

And on a personal note, I also highly recommend looking closely at the brilliance of the natural world. Each day, when I take a walk, I stop and look as closely as I can at an insect or a flower or a tree trunk or a leaf or a bird or a squirrel or the eyes of a dog or the rays of the sun coming through a cloud. It makes me feel connected to and part of the brilliance of nature. Something bigger. It puts me in touch with being human.

We’re all human. We are all less alone in our struggles than we might sometimes think. And we at 120/Life are here with you.

Here’s to your health!

Photo by Julia Rae Schachter

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