Cortisol has a range of roles in the body. It helps break down protein, glucose and lipids, maintain blood pressure, and regulate the immune system. Heat, cold, infection, trauma, stress, exercise, obesity, and debilitating disease can influence cortisol levels. The hormone is secreted in a daily pattern rising in the early morning, peaking around 8 am, and declining in the evening. This pattern, which is sometimes called the "diurnal variation" or "circadian rhythm" changes if you work irregular shifts (such as the night shift) and sleep at different times of the day.
Cortisol is increased in Cushing's Disease and decreased in Addison's Disease (adrenal insufficiency).
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