If you don’t already know this, stress can kill you. Scientists have found that patients with higher levels of stress hormone cortisol in their blood are more likely to die from the deadly virus.

The researchers from Imperial College London found that patients with high levels of the hormone deteriorated more quickly and were at a greater risk of dying.

Cortisol is produced by the body in response to stress, it triggers changes in metabolism, heart function and the immune system to help the body cope.

For the new study, researchers looked at 535 patients, including 403 with confirmed COVID-19 – those with the virus had higher levels than cortisol than those without.

The levels in the COVID-19 group ranged as high as 3,241 – considerably higher even than after major surgery, when levels can top 1,000.

“Having an early indicator of which patients may deteriorate more quickly will help us with providing the best level of care as quickly as possible, as well as helping manage the pressure on the NHS,” study lead author Professor Waljit Dhillo, of Imperial

“In addition, we can also take cortisol levels into account when we are working out how best to treat our patients.”

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