Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is a stress hormone secreted from the adrenal glands on the kidneys. The body also uses this hormone in a fight-or-flight response to an environment which appears threatening. An ‘adrenaline rush’ is a sudden influx of adrenaline flooding the body from the adrenal glands. The brain is essentially communicating the need to stay or leave as quickly as possible depending on the situation. The threat can be real or imagined, but the body believes it is real and thus releases the hormone in response. An overdose of this chemical can, over time, cause adrenal fatigue or burnout related to long periods of stress or anxiety which keep adrenaline at heightened levels in the body for extended periods of time.
When a situation is perceived as exciting, or threatening, the brain sends signals to the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and other hormones. Adrenaline binds to receptors on the heart, arteries, pancreas, liver, muscles and fatty tissue. This increases heart rate and respiration and inhibits production of insulin in the pancreas. Synthesis of sugar and fat is stimulated which can fuel the body in a fight-or-flight situation.
Health can suffer as a result of constant adrenaline rushing through the body. While important to the body, stress and anxiety can trigger release of adrenaline which taxes the body. In people who have heart disease, heart muscles can become weakened causing heart attacks or heart failure. The brain can also suffer as a result of continuous, elevated levels of stress hormones. The hippocampus can shrink which houses the brain’s main memory center.
An increase in adrenaline throughout the body can have positive effects on the blood content of leptin, a protein produced in the body’s white fatty tissue which accelerates the growth of cancer cells. This can lower risk of cancer developing as people age.
Stress hormones also play a major role acceleration in activity of certain neurons in the brain. This can impact brain function. When stress chemicals function as neurotransmitters, storage of memories is impacted by activation of the amygdala, a center of the brain involved in processing and storing negative emotions.
There is no treatment for adrenaline rushes, but men and women are able to control the levels of adrenaline by reducing stress and anxiety at work and home. Doing this can reduce negative health risks such as heart disease and adrenal fatigue which can tax the adrenal glands beyond their capacity to function properly. The best treatment is to slow down, reduce stress and learn to enjoy life by practicing presence and gratitude for the moment.
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