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AM/PM Saliva Cortisol (Stress Hormone) Adrenal Function Test

Tests Morning & Evening Cortisol levels levels for ONLY $65

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WHAT IS STRESS?

The stress response of the body is somewhat like an airplane readying for take-off. Virtually all systems (e.g., the heart and blood vessels, the immune system, the lungs, the digestive system, the sensory organs, and brain) are modified to meet the perceived danger.

External and Internal Stressors

People can experience either external or internal stressors.

External stressors include adverse physical conditions (such as pain or hot or cold temperatures) or stressful psychological environments (such as poor working conditions or abusive relationships).

Internal stressors can also be physical (infections, inflammation) or psychological. An example of an internal psychological stressor is intense worry about a harmful event that may or may not occur. As far as anyone can tell, internal psychological stressors are rare or absent in most animals except humans.

Acute or Chronic Stressors

Stressors can also be defined as short-term (acute) or long-term (chronic).

Acute Stress. Acute stress is the reaction to an immediate threat, commonly known as the fight or flight response. The threat can be any situation that is experienced, even subconsciously or falsely, as a danger.

Common acute stressors include:

Noise.

Crowding.

Isolation.

Hunger.

Danger.

Infection.

Imagining a threat or remembering a dangerous event.

Under most circumstances, once the acute threat has passed, the response becomes inactivated and levels of stress hormones return to normal, a condition called the relaxation response.

Chronic Stress. Frequently, however, modern life poses ongoing stressful situations that are not short lived, and the urge to act (to fight or to flee) must be suppressed. Stress, then, becomes chronic. Common chronic stressors include:

Ongoing highly pressured work.

Long-term relationship problems.

Loneliness.

Persistent financial worries.

WHAT ARE THE BIOLOGICAL EFFECTS OF ACUTE STRESS?

The best way to envision the effect of acute stress is to imagine oneself in a primitive situation, such as being chased by a bear.

The Brain's Response to Acute Stress

In response to seeing the bear, a part of the brain called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system is activated.

Release of Steroid Hormones and the Stress Hormone Cortisol. The HPA systems trigger the production and release of steroid hormones (glucocorticoids), including the primary stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol is very important in marshaling systems throughout the body (including the heart, lungs, circulation, metabolism, immune systems, and skin) to deal quickly with the bear.

Release of Catecholamines. The HPA system also releases certain neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) called catecholamines, particularly those known as known as dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (also called adrenaline).

Catecholamines activate an area inside the brain called the amygdala, which apparently triggers an emotional response to a stressful event. (In the case of the bear, this emotion is most likely fear.)

Effects on Long- and Short Term Memory. During the stressful event, catecholamines also suppress activity in areas at the front of the brain concerned with short-term memory, concentration, inhibition, and rational thought. This sequence of mental events allows a person to react quickly to the bear, either to fight or to flee from it. (It also hinders the ability to handle complex social or intellectual tasks and behaviors during that time.)

On the other hand, neurotransmitters at the same time signal the hippocampus (a nearby area in the brain) to store the emotionally loaded experience in long-term memory. In primitive times, this brain action would have been essential for survival, since long-lasting memories of dangerous stimuli (e.g., a large bear) would be critical for avoiding such threats in the future.

 
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