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Endocr Res. 1996 Nov;22(4):701-8.

Abnormal glucocorticoid activity in subjects with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

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Department of Medicine, Western General Hospital, University of Edinburgh, Scotland, UK.


There are striking similarities between Cushing's syndrome and the 'metabolic syndrome X' since both are characterised by hypertension, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, hyperlipidaemia, and central obesity. The possibility that cortisol contributes to the associations between multiple risk factors for cardiovascular disease was rejected when it was demonstrated that there was no elevation in cortisol secretion or circulating concentration in patients with essential hypertension or type 2 diabetes mellitus. However, in recent years the enormous variability in tissue sensitivity to cortisol has become apparent. We have measured tissue sensitivity to glucocorticoids using an assay of skin vasoconstriction and have demonstrated its relationship with high blood pressure, insulin resistance, glucose intolerance, and hypertriglyceridaemia. Our data suggest that the increase in dermal glucocorticoid sensitivity is not a secondary phenomenon and may be explained by increased glucocorticoid receptor affinity together with impaired inactivation of cortisol by 11 beta-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase. Importantly, we have not found that enhanced peripheral glucocorticoid sensitivity is associated with compensatory suppression of cortisol secretion, so that the maintenance of normal circulating cortisol concentrations in patients with cardiovascular risk factors may be paradoxical and inappropriate.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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