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Lori is a Nurse Practitioner, Board Certified Health Coach & Creation Coach who specializes in getting to the root cause of your symptoms

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Hormone Health

Heart Health

Stress is a ubiquitous aspect of modern life, and its impact on our health, particularly on our cardiovascular system, cannot be overstated. In this blog post, we will explore the intricate connection between stress and heart health, delving into the cascade of physiological responses, hormone imbalances, and weight gain that contribute to heart disease, specifically focusing on the role of cortisol, often dubbed as the “stress hormone”.

In this article, I will give an overview of cortisol and its impact on the heart. Next week I will do a deeper dive with additional tips to turn this syndrome around. For now, let’s take a wide-angle view.

Understanding Stress and Its Effects on the Body

Stress is the body’s natural response to perceived threats or challenges, triggering a cascade of physiological changes aimed at preparing us to deal with the situation. This response involves the release of various hormones, including cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline, which initiate the “fight or flight” response.

The Role of Cortisol: The Stress Hormone

Cortisol, often referred to as the stress hormone, plays a crucial role in regulating metabolism, immune response, and inflammatory reactions. In times of stress, cortisol levels spike to provide the body with the energy it needs to respond to the perceived threat. However, chronic stress can lead to prolonged elevation of cortisol levels, which can have detrimental effects on various organ systems, including the heart.

The Fall Out: Estrogen Dominance

If you have read my work, you know that I often discuss cortisol and its ugly fallout leading to estrogen dominance. This nasty cascade of excess cortisol sucks the progesterone right out of us, often called “pregnanolone steal”, creating a serious imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. This imbalance puts you at risk for hormone-related cancers, but also weight gain around the middle, or cortisol belly.

Supporting ourselves with extra progesterone support when we are under high stress can support better balance, yet the end goal is of course to take the necessary lifestyle measures to reduce the stress levels.

The “Cortisol Belly” Phenomenon

One of the well-documented effects of chronic stress and elevated cortisol levels is the accumulation of abdominal fat, often referred to as “cortisol belly” or “stress belly.” This visceral fat deposition is associated with insulin resistance, elevated cholesterol or dyslipidemia, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Moreover, abdominal obesity is a key component of metabolic syndrome, a cluster of conditions that significantly elevate the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Cortisol, Inflammation, and Heart Disease

Chronic stress and sustained elevation of cortisol levels contribute to systemic inflammation, which plays a central role in the development and progression of atherosclerosis—the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes. Inflammation damages the endothelial or inner lining of blood vessels, promotes plaque formation, and destabilizes existing plaques, increasing the risk of cardiovascular events.

Hormonal Imbalance and Cardiovascular Health

In addition to cortisol, chronic stress can disrupt the balance of other hormones involved in regulating metabolism and cardiovascular function, such as insulin, leptin, and ghrelin. Dysregulation of these hormones can lead to insulin resistance, increased appetite, and unhealthy eating behaviors, ultimately contributing to weight gain and obesity—a significant risk factor for heart disease.

Weight Gain and Cardiovascular Risk

The link between stress, hormone imbalance, and weight gain is well-established. Stress-induced cortisol secretion can stimulate appetite and cravings for high-calorie, sugary, and fatty foods, leading to overeating and weight gain, particularly in the abdominal region. Excess weight, especially visceral fat, is strongly associated with insulin resistance, hypertension, dyslipidemia, and other risk factors for heart disease.

Coping Strategies for Stress Management and Heart Health

Given the detrimental effects of chronic stress on heart health, adopting effective stress management strategies is crucial for mitigating cardiovascular risk. These may include:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity helps reduce stress, improve mood, and promote cardiovascular fitness. Now, it may be wiser to try moderate and low-impact exercises like yoga, pilates, and walking, vs. HIIT of high-demand long workouts to avoid sabotaging your efforts to reduce cortisol belly.
  • Mindfulness and Relaxation Techniques: Practices such as meditation, deep breathing exercises, and yoga can help lower cortisol levels and induce relaxation.
  • Healthy Lifestyle Choices: Eating a balanced diet, getting adequate sleep, and avoiding excessive alcohol and caffeine intake can support overall well-being and heart health.
  • Social Support: Maintaining strong social connections and seeking support from friends, family, or support groups can help buffer the effects of stress.


In conclusion, chronic stress, hormone imbalance, and weight gain, often manifested as “cortisol belly,” contribute to the development and progression of heart disease through multiple interconnected pathways. By understanding these mechanisms and adopting effective stress management strategies, we can mitigate the impact of stress on heart health and promote overall well-being. Prioritizing self-care, healthy lifestyle choices, and seeking social support are essential steps in safeguarding our cardiovascular health in today’s fast-paced world.

Do you feel like your body is working against you?  Are you frustrated with a lack of knowledge and providers who will not listen to you? Then take my Free Hormonal Assessment today to finally get some answers!

Stay tuned – my new book, “Create the Vitality You Crave- Unlock Your Healing Powers by Optimizing Your DNA,” will be released in early April. If you’d like to be one of a small group of women to whom I gift a PDF version of my book in exchange for a review (5 stars would be awesome, just sayin’), then please reach out via or via my website. Thanks.

This Free Quiz was created to help you gain clarity about some of your most aggravating symptoms and to help you get on your healthy hormone path.

FREE Hormone Symptom Quiz!