Adrenaline: The Body’s Kick-Starter

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To ensure human survival, hormones helped the cavemen fight or flee, but the effects of these natural secretions are not always positive today.

Adrenaline is one of the basic hormones produced by the human body to increase its ability to respond to short-term stress. Also called epinephrine, the hormone is an example of how the human body adapted to handle dangerous and stressful situations.

Adrenaline helps lift the body’s level of performance over the short term through such actions as dilating air passages, which allows the body to get more oxygen into the lungs.

When facing a fight or flight situation, adrenaline also increases the heart rate, elevates the blood pressure and ups the energy supply.

The “adrenaline rush” can be thought of as the body’s version of a video game turbo boost, just what a caveman would need to escape the sharp teeth of a predator.

Today, adrenaline is used for a variety of medical purposes. It’s no accident that doctors call for it when a patient suffers a heart attack. In addition to cardiac arrest, it is used to treat anaphylaxis, asthma, croup, and in local anesthetics.

If you have an EpiPen to use in case of an emergency, you already know what it can do. Adrenaline is a versatile hormone with a diverse array of properties that are literally lifesavers for many.

But there are some negative effects associated with adrenaline use, too, especially over time. Being overexposed to stress means an overexposure to adrenaline and cortisol, which in turn can lead to health problems like heart disease, obesity, depression, digestive issues and memory impairment, among a number of maladies.

Also, because adrenaline regulates the ability to maintain its blood pressure, when its levels in the body are not optimal, the health effects can be catastrophic.

Adrenaline increases the body’s metabolic rate and breaks down the energy stored in fat cells. It goes without saying that when the body starts to produce less of it, or if it stops processing it correctly, that can lead to lethargy and weight gain.

A vicious feedback cycle can be initiated, as weight gain leads to a decrease in adrenaline production, which in turn makes it difficult to lose those extra pounds.

There’s still a lot of medical research to be done on adrenaline and its health effects, both good and bad. Even though it has been recognized as a critical hormone in human development for thousands of years, we are still trying to figure out how to make it work as well for people today as it did for humans in the Paleolithic past.

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Lex Cavemen

LEX is the scientist. He is obsessed with understanding why and how the world around him works the way it does.

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