Cortisol or hydrocortisone is a naturally occurring stress hormone which is secreted by the adrenal gland. It is naturally produced during the fight and flight response to pumping up the extra energy to confront the situation. Under normal circumstances, the cortisol level fluctuates throughout the day as we are on the run through the day.
Since it is a hormone, it is circulated throughout the body by blood and affects all the organs of the body. Keeping aside the adrenal gland abnormalities where the cortisol level is very high (Cushing’s syndrome) and very low (Addison’s disease), the level should be appropriate for normal body functioning and well being. Irregularities in the cortisol level can affect the body’s metabolism and vital functions like blood pressure regulation. When cortisol is raised, the person may have weight gain, high blood pressure while a low level can lead to low blood pressure…
Some 50 – 80 years ago, people rarely used the word “stress”. Maybe the word was just another word in the dictionary whose meaning had the least relevance in their lives. But, today, it is the most common widely used word in every individual’s life.
Today, everywhere, you go, stress can follow you. At home, at the office, stuck in traffic, getting late and the list goes on. Therefore, the most common causes of stress in people’s lives nowadays.
4 points of clarifications as to how genes are linked to stress.
1.Genetical predisposition: Often seen, some people tend to battle more with day to day stress than some other people. So, how are genes related to our body’s psychological response? Genes produce proteins which influences our body’s reactions to different psychological responses and, stress being one of them. Single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), are tiny differences in the genes which affect the release of hormones and proteins in the body and determine the psychological responses. This is a reason, different people react differently and have a different level of stress for the same particular situation.
2.COMT gene: Catechol – O– methyltransferase is an enzyme which causes the body to break the stress hormones like epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine.Epinephrine and epinephrine are hormones produces during extreme stress, under fight and flight response whereas dopamine is feel good (reward) hormone which also function as a neurotransmitter. So depending on which version of the COMT gene you have, your genotype can be a :
Warrior gene: Those who perform well under stress or under pressure.
Strategic gene: Those whose performance suffers during stress but performs well in calm situations. Combination of both: Those who are quite in between.
3.BDNF ( brain-derived neurotrophic factor): BDNF normally function as protecting and creating new neurons, strengthening the signals between neurons. As far as stress is concerned, this protein acts as a resilience factor. This helps you to tolerate and resist the stressful situation and can still act and make you perform without affecting your health and wellbeing.
4.Managing stress level: This is the most important part of this topic. So how do we manage stress level? Depending upon, genetic predisposition, you may be the either high or low level of stress resilience. So, easy steps to handle routine stress are: Breathing/relaxation: Deep breathing is a simple step that can be effective to control stress. Because, when you breathe deep, this makes the brain to relax and calm down. Exercise: When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, your body enters the feel-good phase. 2 types of endorphins: Anandamide and serotonin.
Exercise increases your level of anandamide which helps the body to produce BDNF which in turn helps to regulate stress. Serotonin is a feel-good chemical which makes you happy, motivated which can be boosted by exercise, walking, running or any physical activity which you enjoy doing. When serotonin is level is maintained, stress is less likely to occur.