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Definition - What does cortisol mean?

Cortisol is a steroid hormone made from cholesterol and produced within the body's adrenal glands in the kidneys. The adrenal gland, pituitary gland, and the hypothalamus regulate the secretion of cortisol. The hormone plays an important part in nutrition, regulating metabolism, controlling blood sugar levels and blood pressure, balancing salt and water, and supporting the growth of the fetus in pregnant women. Cortisol can also be referred to as serum cortisol.

SureHire explains cortisol

Cortisol belongs to the group of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids. The hormone is involved in many of the body's functions and is usually released in the event of high stress, physical exercise, or on waking. Sometimes called a stress hormone, cortisol (along with epinephrine) is responsible for the body's natural "fight or flight" response.

Cortisol is typically tested for using a blood test or adrenal stress index (ASI). This is a saliva test comprising of four time-based saliva samples. High levels of cortisol can be indicative of anxiety or depression. It could also indicate Cushing's syndrome, which is the presence of tumors on the pituitary or adrenal glands. This test may be ordered where a patient presents with sudden weight gain in the face, chest, and abdomen. Low cortisol levels may indicate Addison's disease, which is an autoimmune disease affecting the adrenal glands.

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