Part 2 – The Stress Hormone

Do you remember the time just before your 12th results came out, your heart was racing, your hands were sweating and you were just waiting for the clock to strike 10 as soon as possible? Well, I remember it clearly, and it was terrible. This response of our body to situations of stress and fear is governed by a hormone called Adrenaline. Also called epinephrine, this hormone is a crucial part of the body’s fight-or-flight response, but over-exposure can be damaging to health. Because of this, adrenaline is a hormone worth understanding.

Adrenaline (epinephrine) is the neurotransmitter of the adrenal gland secreted in moments of crisis. It is produced in the center (medulla) of the adrenal glands and in some neurons of the central nervous system. It is released into the bloodstream and serve as chemical mediators, and also convey the nerve impulses to various organs. It stimulates the heart to beat faster and work harder, increases the flow of blood to the muscles, causes an increased alertness of mind, and produces other changes to prepare the body to meet an emergency. It is also a chemical messenger in the brain.


Adrenaline at time of stress.

When under stress or anxiety, the body reacts with the fight-or-flight response. This response prepares the body for anticipated conflict or danger by propelling it into a heightened state of alertness or readiness. This natural response keeps the body out of harm’s way. The sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems regulate how the body deals with stress. During a perceived stressful or dangerous situation, the sympathetic nervous system goes into fight or flight, triggering the adrenal glands to secrete the hormones (Adrenaline or epinephrine) that increase blood pressure and heart rate.

Adrenaline in power. 

Our parents usually tell us to not take any decision when we are too angry or too sad. Ever wondered what happens inside our body in these situations? The adrenaline content inside our body is triggered due to situations like these, which makes our emotions go out of control, and we might end up saying something which we never wanted to. That’s why, it is advised to keep calm and take deep breaths. The parasympathetic nervous system works in conjunction with the sympathetic nervous system, to trigger the body to secrete hormones to decrease blood pressure and heart rate, inducing a relaxation response. Breathing deeply and mindfully helps stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system to trigger this response.

Can overproduction of adrenaline lead to death? 

A 70-year-old restaurateur, Josephine “Ann” Harris, died of cardiac arrest hours after President Obama stopped at her diner for breakfast as she didn’t know that Obama would visit until shortly before he arrived. So, can people die from being too excited? The answer is Yes! Our body reacts to excitement in the same way as it does to stress, by releasing the hormones adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, which primes people (and animals) to face dangerous situations.  However, too much adrenaline and nor-adrenaline can be dangerous to the heart, brain, and other organs. An enormous shock, whether positive or negative, can cause your heart to speed up, beat irregularly, or stop. In patients with pre-existing heart disease, the fight-or-flight response can also dislodge arterial plaques, sending blood clots to the heart, causing a heart attack, or to the brain, causing a stroke. Several other examples where different kinds of excitement killed people were also found. A Taiwanese man died of a stroke after watching Avatar. One study showed that soccer fans in Munich experienced higher than normal rates of cardiac emergencies during Germany’s games in the 2006 World Cup.

A Taiwanese man died of a stroke after watching Avatar. One study showed that soccer fans in Munich experienced higher than normal rates of cardiac emergencies during Germany’s games in the 2006 World Cup.

It is found that very rarely, overproduction of adrenaline/nor-adrenaline may be caused by an adrenal tumor called pheochromocytoma or a paraganglioma. Such tumors may run in families as well. Some people with obesity and untreated obstructive sleep apnea may be exposed to high levels of nor-adrenaline/adrenaline each night as they struggle to breathe; this might play a role in the development of high blood pressure in such people.

Problems associated with Adrenaline. 

Adrenaline is an important part of our body’s ability to survive, but sometimes the body will release the hormone when it is under stress but not facing real danger. This can create feelings of dizziness, and vision changes. Also, adrenaline causes a release of glucose, which a fight-or-flight response would use. When no danger is present, that extra energy has no use, and this can leave the person feeling restless and irritable. Excessively high levels of the hormone due to stress without real danger can cause heart damage, insomnia, and a jittery, nervous feeling.

As stated above, medical conditions that cause an overproduction of adrenaline are rare, but can happen. Too little adrenaline rarely occurs, but if it did it would limit the body’s ability to respond properly in stressful situations.

The stress hormone adrenaline, is very useful for body as it helps us to protect our body from any harm. At the same time, overproduction of it can lead us to death. Hence, its level should be maintained inside our body. It is advisable to practice breathing exercises which might help in keeping it under control.

Have a look at the mentioned references for any further details.


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