Scientists and medical researchers across our globe are at war with the Coronavirus. Practically every discipline in medical science is devoting massive resources into better means to treatment, in the expectation that one day soon we will find a cure. As we learn more about Covid-19, it becomes clear that a wide variety of factors are at play when determining an individual's risk of contracting Coronavirus.
Once infected, the severity/mortality of Covid-19 is also highly variable. Some people contract Coronavirus with no noticeable symptoms, while others are filling up ICUs across America. One hormone that is suspected of having an adverse impact on Covid-19 outcomes is Cortisol.
What Is Cortisol?
Cortisol is a hormone that is innately connected to both physical and psychological stress response. The hormone is intimately connected to the human fight-or-flight response. When we enter a stressful situation, increased Cortisol production triggers the body and mind to go on high-alert, ready to make split-second decisions that could mean life-or-death. Cortisol is secreted by the Adrenal Glands, along with Adrenaline, another hormone associated with stress-response.
Cortisol Controls Several Critical Functions
Along with its effects on fight-or-flight, Cortisol is also critically important to several aspects of human physiology, including immune response, salinity, blood pressure, and metabolism. Cortisol is necessary for normal function, but modern humans are prone to produce too much Cortisol. Chronic stress is one of the primary culprits for excess Cortisol, largely because of the pressures and demands of modern culture, but also due to environmental factors, genetics, and lifestyle.
Cortisol Depletes Physiological Resources
Cortisol levels elevate in an attempt to respond to immediate threats. It diverts resources away from the mechanisms that preserve our long-term survival, including immune function. Elevated Cortisol Levels arising from Chronic Stress and other factors have been shown to suppress the immune response, increasing the risks associated with Covid-19.
A recent study provides evidence regarding the relationship between Covid-19 and Cortisol. Researchers examined the blood of hundreds of individuals stuck in the hospital—535 total, 403 of which were diagnosed with Coronavirus. The scientists measured Cortisol Levels in both groups and discovered that Covid-19 positive patients had exceptionally high Cortisol compared to the control group.
Higher Cortisol Levels Associated With Lower Coronavirus Survival Rates
Researchers used Cortisol Levels of 744 nm/L as the benchmark. These levels are far above normal—under normal circumstances, the human body maintains Cortisol at 100-200 nm/L. They found that Coronavirus Patients with Cortisol Levels higher than this benchmark lived just 15 days on average. On the other hand, those that had Cortisol Levels below that threshold could survive around 36 days.
How Can Knowing A Patient's Cortisol Levels Impact Covid-19 Treatment?
In order to treat the Coronavirus most effectively, it's important to be able to quickly assess the amount of danger that a patient is in. The top indicator of risk is a patient's Oxygen Saturation Levels, but other factors provide a more complete image of an individual's unique risk profile. By measuring Cortisol Levels in addition to Oxygen Saturation, medical staff can determine which patients need care most urgently. This also provides doctors and researchers with more leads on hypotheses that may improve treatment options in the future.
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