Unfortunately, stress responses today don't look at all like the ones faced by our ancestors. These stressors cause cortisol to be releases when no fight or flight response is needed.
This constant elevation in cortisol is shown to be very detrimental to your health. It's been linked to excess blood sugar, heart disease, raised cholesterol, increased body fat, depressed sex hormones, and almost anything else bad that chronic stress can cause in your body.
Here are some of the detrimental effects of elevated cortisol:
Weight Gain, Diabetes, and Heart Disease
Long term exposure to cortisol can cause high blood sugar, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Combine elevated cortisol with low growth hormone and the body loses muscle, stores more fat, and your metabolism slows.
Increased Belly Fat
This weight gain tends to fall in the abdominal region exactly where you don't want it.
Impaired Immune System
Cortisol can shrink the thymus gland, which is one of the immune regulators in your body. This can inhibit white blood cell production. Cortisol can even signal immune system cells to die. Long-term exposure can suppress the immune system and produce serious diseases.
Depression and Irritable Mood
Elevated cortisol can also cause anxiety, moodiness, and depression. Cortisol boosts short term memory for up to 30 minutes, but the reduced blood flow and glucose to the brain can actually cause brain cells to shrink.
Aging and a Catabolic State
Cortisol speeds up the aging process and puts the body in a "catabolic" state of tissue destruction, muscle loss, bone loss, and even brain shrinkage. Increasing cortisol coupled with decreasing hormones like testosterone accelerates this loss of tissue.