Do hormone levels drop because we age,
or do we age as a result of decreasing hormones?
HORMONE REPLACEMENT THERAPY
Almost everyone over the age of 40 (and even 30) begins to experience hormone imbalance. Beyond age-related decline, hormones may become imbalanced at any time due to stress, nutrition, lack of sleep, or lifestyle choices. Anyone whose body is functioning with suboptimal levels will eventually suffer in health.
Every one of us has specific hormones that decline with age: the sex hormones (testosterone in men; estrogen and progesterone in women), melatonin, DHEA, and human growth hormone. By age 70, the average adult will have lost at least 70% of youthful hormone levels.
With age, cellular receptor sites become more resistant to hormone stimulation and require ever-increasing levels of hormone. Even though lab values may be normal, we need higher levels to feel and function better (particularly in the case of thyroid hormone). A “normal” level does not imply an optimal level.
Many environmental pollutants contain xenoestrogens which disrupt estrogen activity, oppose androgen activity, and affect thyroid function. The list of pollutants is exhaustive but a few common ones are plastic (water bottles, containers in which we heat food), pesticides, chemicals and hormone-like substances that induce faster and bigger growth in animal and vegetable foods, and lead.
The symptoms that are the result of declining hormone levels are usually considered to be the normal consequence of aging.
Women experience a sudden and profound loss of estrogen and progesterone at menopause. For many women, peri-menopause can last from 4-6 years prior to menopause and is marked by unpleasant symptoms including fatigue, mood swings, depression, weight gain, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, poor sleep, loss of libido, and memory difficulties.
Men, on the other hand, experience a steady, slow, unpredictable loss of testosterone, which can vary significantly among individuals. Men are thus more likely to attribute their symptoms to “getting older” and are frequently less inclined to seek intervention. The common symptoms include low libido, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, hair loss, memory loss, mood swings/irritability, muscle loss, insomnia, depression, and increased body fat. The decline usually starts at age 30, and by the time a man reaches 70, he has only about 10% of the testosterone he had in his 20’s.
Cardiovascular disease, which includes heart disease, hypertension and stroke, is the number one killer of women, according to the American Heart Association. It kills half a million American women each year. That figure exceeds the next seven causes of death combined. There is an approximate ten-year window after menopause in which to keep a woman’s hormones in balance so as to best prevent the cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis that might otherwise be imminent.
Hormonal balance is crucial to health and function. The earlier an imbalance is corrected, the less likely it is that symptoms will progress to disease.
The Big Players
Regulates metabolism, temperature, cerebral function and energy. Protects against cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, fatigue, weight gain, and memory loss. Increases fat breakdown resulting in weight loss as well as lower cholesterol. In spite of “normal” lab values, many individuals have inadequate amounts of thyroid hormone due to an age-related decline in enzymatic conversion of T4 to T3 and decreased receptor site sensitivity.
Protects, in women and men (a percentage of testosterone always converts to estradiol), against heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease, colon cancer, cataracts, and memory disorders. In women, protects against vaginal atrophy, urinary incontinence, and UTI’s. Prevents menopausal hot flashes and temperature dysregulation.
Secreted only by the ovary, so all menopausal women need replacement. Protects against uterine and breast cancers, osteoporosis, fibrocystic disease, ovarian cysts, and coronary artery disease. Excellent therapy for menopause and is the only treatment for perimenopausal symptoms and PMS (by moderating the effects of excess estrogen). Frequently referred to as the “feel good” hormone (since it elevates the mood).
For men and women! Enhances muscle mass, strength, endurance, well-being, psychological status, and cognition. Increases libido and sexual performance. Decreases fat and cholesterol. Improves healing, bone density, skin tone, and cognition. Protects the cardiovascular, neurologic, musculoskeletal, vascular and immune systems.
Named the “mother” hormone because it is a precursor to other hormones. Reduces abdominal fat, decreases insulin resistance, protects against metabolic syndrome and diabetes. Stimulates the immune system, restores sexual vitality, elevates mood, improves memory, increases energy, protects against cancer and heart disease. Is a natural antidepressant.
Primarily secreted at night and known for improving depth and quality of sleep. Modulates immune function, increases natural killer cells, and has potent anti-oxidative effects. Helps protect against colon, prostate, and breast cancer. Increases energy and enhances mood. There is an abundance of short-acting, poorly effective versions sold over-the-counter.
Primarily responsible for the growth of children, but subsequently crucial to the regrowth of cells, repair of injuries, and overall vitality. It declines by about 15% for every ten years of adult life
Honorable mention to Vitamin D. In reality, it is a pro-hormone that is produced in the skin when UV light acts on the cholesterol that is secreted in skin oils. It is critical for bone health, reduces risk of diabetes, lowers chances of heart attacks, rheumatoid arthritis and multiple sclerosis. Low levels have been linked to increased type 1 diabetes, muscle and bone pain, and breast, colon, prostate, ovarian, lymphatic cancers. Healthy Vitamin D levels are crucial for preventing and treating depression.
Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT)
Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) prescribes hormones that are identical in molecular structure to the hormones made in the human body.