Over the last 20 years, studies have increasingly revealed that moderate to high cortisol levels may lead to an array of health issues, such as (3Trusted Source, 4Trusted Source, 5Trusted Source, 6Trusted Source):
- Chronic disease. Long-term increased cortisol may increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other chronic diseases.
- Weight gain. Cortisol may increase appetite and signal the body to shift metabolism to store fat.
- Lack of energy/difficulty sleeping. It can interfere with sleep hormones which may impact sleep quality and length.
- Difficulty concentrating. Also referred to as “brain fog,” some people report trouble focusing and lack of mental clarity.
- Impaired immune system. Increased cortisol can hamper the immune system, making it more difficult to fight infections.
- Cushing’s syndrome. In rare cases, very high cortisol levels can lead to Cushing’s syndrome, a rare but serious disease.
Elevated cortisol levels can be caused from many underlying issues such as overactivity or cancer of the pituitary or adrenal glands, chronic stress, and medication side effects (e.g., prednisone, hormonal therapy) (7Trusted Source).
Further, existing chronic disease (e.g., obesity) may lead to higher cortisol levels, causing a “chicken or the egg” type of scenario (7Trusted Source).
Therefore, it’s best to work with a qualified health professional to establish the root cause of your health issues. Along with this, you may want to introduce some effective lifestyle habits that may help you better manage your cortisol levels. Here are some recommendations: