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Hormones and Aging

Hormones are powerful chemical messengers produced by your body that tell your cells what to do, and regulate every organ and major body system. Hormones affect everything from your ability to fall asleep, to your mood, thinking ability, cholesterol level, response to stress, and the speed at which you age.

As we age, hormone levels decline, creating a severe hormone imbalance that may contribute to many of the diseases associated with aging including depression, osteoporosis, coronary artery disease, and loss of libido.


THE DANGERS OF HORMONE LOSS

By the time a woman enters menopause, she may already have experienced two decades of hormonal imbalance. After menopause, when all her hormone levels decrease significantly, risk of major diseases increases. These include:

Heart disease - Rates of heart disease in postmenopausal women gradually climb until they equal the rates typically seen among men. According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the leading killer of American women (American Heart Association 2004).

Osteoporosis - Hormone deficiencies are clearly associated with bone loss and osteoporosis, beginning even in the third decade of life. By the time a woman reaches 50, her risk of an osteoporotic bone fracture is significantly increased.

Alzheimer's and dementia - Loss of hormones is associated with neurodegeneration and increased risk of dementia, such as Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.


ANTI-AGING BENEFITS OF HORMONE SUPPLEMENTATION

Many physicians accept diminished hormone levels as an inevitable consequence of aging and dismiss the anti-aging benefits of restoring youthful hormone levels. However, research indicates that, in addition to relieving menopausal symptoms, optimizing hormone levels can benefit conditions such as osteoporosis, depression, fatigue, and excess weight. Among the most important hormones for women to monitor and balance are free estrogen, testosterone, and DHEA.


Estrogen Is Important for Osteoporosis Prevention

Strong, healthy bone is continually maintained through a process of bone resorption (removal of old bone) and bone formation (deposition of new bone). During this process, estrogen plays an important role in protecting against bone loss. Sufficient levels of progesterone and testosterone are also important. A woman's risk of bone loss and osteoporosis increases dramatically after menopause when estrogen and other hormone levels decline. The primary preventative treatment modality in the U.S. for postmenopausal osteoporosis is hormone therapy. Studies show that hormone therapy could potentially prevent 80% of vertebral fractures and reduce hip fractures by about 50%.


Testosterone Linked to Libido and Well-being

Although women produce only small quantities of testosterone, this important hormone helps women maintain muscle strength, bone mass, and sexual function. A woman's testosterone level decreases throughout her adult life, and, by menopause, is about 50% of what it was at 20.

In one study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in September 2000, testosterone patches were tested on 75 surgically menopausal women whose declining testosterone levels had resulted in a loss of libido. Study participants using testosterone patches were two to three times more likely to have an increase in sexual activity and improved overall well being than those not using patches.


Studies Suggest Hormones Affect Skin Integrity and Elasticity

During menopause, when the production of hormones in the ovaries diminishes significantly and eventually stops altogether, it is not surprising that most women notice changes in their skin, most noticeably dryness and wrinkling. Studies show the skin thins out and loses its elasticity causing wrinkles to deepen, and the process of cell renewal slows down, resulting in less radiance and a duller complexion. Some estimates show that skin loses up to 30% of its collagen in the first five years after menopause, and without intervention, post-menopausal skin may continue to degenerate.

Maintaining optimal levels of estrogen appears to exert strong influence on aging of the skin. A study in the British Medical Journal found that the collagen content of skin in postmenopausal women who underwent estrogen therapy was 48% greater than in those who did not -- suggesting that, in aging women, estrogen protects skin similar to the way it protects bones. Another study suggested that skin wrinkling may also diminish as a result of the effects of the hormone on the elastic fibers and collagen. The same study also showed women who take both estrogen and testosterone have skin that is 48 percent thicker (and healthier) than women who don't take either hormone.


Estrogen Helps Maintain Healthy Vaginal Tissue and Prevent Urinary Incontinence

Vaginal dryness and atrophy, urinary frequency, urinary incontinence, and repeat urinary tract infections are problems that many women experience during and after menopause. These symptoms occur because falling estrogen levels can lead to thinning of the vaginal and urethral tissue and weakening of the muscles around the bladder.

Supplemental low-dose estrogen has a very robust local effect on the many estrogen receptors in these tissues and can be useful in reducing vaginal dryness and thickening skin and mucosa. Studies show low-dose estrogen can also lower vaginal pH, promoting a healthy environment for the growth of protective flora, which may then help prevent urinary tract infections.


DHEA - The Fountain of Youth Hormone

DHEA, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, has been called the ''fountain of youth'' hormone because of its widespread positive role in maintaining youthful function as we age. Levels of DHEA peak in our twenties then begin a dramatic decline, which is associated with diminishing immunity, memory, libido and energy, and lowered resistance to age-related diseases. DHEA also plays an important role in how we handle stress and in bone mineral density.

While over-the-counter DHEA supplements are widely available and may be valuable in the quest for healthy aging, too much DHEA can ''cascade'' or turn into other hormones, creating further hormone imbalance. On the other hand, DHEA levels typically increase on their own when other hormones are brought back into balance. As with all hormones, measuring your hormone levels before supplementation is critical.
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1 comments:

Cheri Plett said...

I wanted to invite you to a free webinar that we are doing called,
Hormone Balance: an important key to healthy aging” with Robert Greene, MD.
To read more about this webinar: www.BuildingStrengthWebinars.com.
Thursday, January 29th, at 9:00pm EST
Cheri Plett

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