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Higher Stress Levels

There's enough stress already associated with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and learning you're infected with the virus is enough to send anyone's stress levels through the roof.

Even so, a new study has found that COVID-19 patients with lower levels of the so-called "stress hormone" stand a better chance of surviving longer.

The U.K. medical journal The Lancet reports patients diagnosed with COVID-19 also show elevated levels of cortisol, known as the stress hormone because increased production is triggered by our "fight or flight" reflex.

Under normal conditions, cortisol -- which is produced by your adrenal glands -- helps regulate vital bodily functions such as blood pressure, metabolic rate, blood sugar levels and immune system response. But high-stress situations can keep cortisol levels at elevated, unhealthy levels -- and that can negatively effect the body's ability to fight off disease.

The Lancet study found COVID-19-positive patients in U.K. hospitals exhibited significantly higher cortisol levels than patients without COVID-19. What's more, the higher the cortisol levels in COVID-19 patients, the fewer days they survived -- in some cases, they survived only half as long as COVID-19 patients with lower cortisol levels.

However, the study is careful to note, "The effects of COVID-19 on cortisol are currently unknown." Even so, researchers suggest checking patients for elevated cortisol levels may help physicians better assess which COVID-19 patients are most in need of immediate critical care.

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