Cortisol and COVID
What puts some people at a higher risk of severe COVID infection than others?
It’s the million-dollar question that we don’t fully understand yet.
A new study published in the Lancet, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7302794/, found that higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol were a marker of more severe illness from COVID-19.
That does NOT mean stress causes COVID!!!!
Before jumping to conclusions too quickly, let’s be clear about what this study showed. Patients were tested for cortisol levels when they were admitted to one of 3 large teaching hospitals in London with suspected COVID-19.
That means they were already sick when they were tested (more on this in a minute).
But here was the shocking result…
Patients who had cortisol levels lower than 744 when they arrived at the hospital survived a median of 36 days, but those with cortisol higher than 744 survived a median of only 15 days.
To give you a point of reference, cortisol levels in health people hover around 100-200 during the day.
So, the study found:
Patients with COVID had increased cortisol levels
Patients with the highest cortisol levels had more severe illness
Here are some things you should know:
Cortisol is the hormone our bodies release in response to stress
We release cortisol in response to emotional stress but also physical
It’s normal for cortisol to spike during an acute illness
The APPROPRIATE release of cortisol (every day and when we get sick) is what keeps us alive, healthy, and energetic
The INAPPROPRIATE release of cortisol (too much or too little) is cause for concern
Nobody can predict how YOUR body might respond if you were to contract COVID-19.
But it never hurts to be proactive—today—to strengthen your body’s resilience to stress. Get outside to exercise. Follow routines. Sleep well. Eat well. Enjoy the company of others.
These are stressful times. Do yourself a favor and find ways to de-stress. Drop in the comments below—what are your favorite ways to let the stress go?