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What is epinephrine, and how does it relate to extreme stress?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Your adrenal glands produce the hormone epinephrine, and its level surges when you get excited. In normal daily life, your levels of epinephrine hover between 200 to 800 nanograms per milliliter. You know that feeling when you narrowly avoid a car accident-when your face feels flushed, your heart races, and you swear at the incompetence of no-look mergers? In that case, epinephrine levels rise to between 1,500 and 2,500 nanograms per milliliter.

In times of crisis for people with adrenal tumors, the level can reach 300,000-and force their blood pressure literally off the scale. (Imagine feeling like you just had a close-call accident all the time--that's how people with adrenal tumors feel.)

Typically it takes eight years before organized medicine diagnoses the tumor. Another interesting finding: 50 percent of people with these tumors are alcoholics, presumably because they use alcohol to calm themselves from that intense stress.
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