Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The Truth About Hormones: A Balancing Act

Helping Men & Women Achieve Optimal Hormone Levels
Most often when we think of hormones, we associate them with our development as sexual beings.  But estrogen, testosterone and progesterone are much more than just sex hormones. They play a critical role in our health, well being and vitality at every stage of life.

Estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, as well as hormones such as insulin, DHEA, thyroid and cortisol, are natural chemical substances produced by the endocrine system.  The endocrine glands, which include the pituitary, pineal, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal, pancreas and gonads (the ovaries and testes), secrete hormones into the blood stream, where they travel to every major organ and tissue of the body.

Once the hormones reach a specific target cell, the interaction sets off a complex biological process that helps regulate everything from metabolism and the immune system to growth, development, reproduction and the body’s response to stress and injury.

When our hormone levels are in perfect balance, generally around age 30, all of the internal processes in our body are at their peak optimal condition.  But as we age, the endocrine glands no longer produce or secrete hormones at full capacity.  Hormone levels fluctuate and gradually decline, resulting in sometimes subtle, but often significant changes in the body.

Changing hormone levels affect both men and women and can create havoc in numerous areas contributing to conditions such as:
  • Weight gain and increased body fat, especially in the abdomen
  • Decreased muscle tone, strength and mass
  • Change in mental sharpness, focus, memory and ability
  • Problems with sleeping
  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Mood swings, anxiety, irritability or depression
  • Reduced sex drive and sexual dysfunction
  • Changes in the skin, including loss of firmness, the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and brown “age” spots
  • Bone loss and osteoporosis
  • Higher levels of LDL, the bad cholesterol, and lower levels of HDL, the good cholesterol
  • Increased risk for heart disease, adult onset diabetes and stroke

Menopause versus Andropause
The many challenges women face during menopause are well-documented.  But men also experience body changes during mid-life that alter their physical, mental, emotional and sexual well-being.

The male version of menopause is called andropause – a time when the androgen hormones decline, especially testosterone.  However, andropause is not as clear-cut and much more subtle than menopause.

While menopause brings about a dramatic decline of hormones in women, men typically experience a much slower, gradual reduction that takes place over several decades.  Some studies show that testosterone levels in men may drop 1 percent to 3 percent a year starting in their 30s.

Complications of Menopause
We often tend to think of testosterone being a male hormone and estrogen being a female hormone.  But both men and women produce and need estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, just in different amounts.

For women, a drop in estrogen, testosterone and progesterone at menopause brings about numerous negative side-effects. It also places them at higher risk for many serious, chronic medical conditions, from heart disease and stroke to osteoporosis.

The average age for a woman at menopause is 51, but usually several years prior to that time, menstrual cycles become irregular and a range of menopausal symptoms begin to appear.  That period of time is called perimenopause.

Eventually, as hormone levels decline further, the ovaries shut down and no longer produce eggs.  The menstrual cycle ceases, making childbirth no longer possible.  At this time, the amount of estrogen circulating in the body is dramatically less than it was in their 20s and 30s.  Testosterone and progesterone levels are also reduced.

Women who have had a hysterectomy with removal of the ovaries may undergo an immediate “surgical” menopause at any age, which can result in an 80 percent drop in estrogen and a 50 percent drop in testosterone.

Sooner or later, every woman will experience menopause and the related complications that a drop in hormone levels will bring.  But thanks to greater understanding of the body’s endocrine system, we know that the process can be managed to postpone premature aging.

Managing the aging process by carefully supplementing or replacing lost hormone levels will help women avoid troubling and sometimes life-threatening medical conditions, such as:
  • hot flashes and night sweats
  • vaginal dryness and thinning of the vaginal tissues, making intercourse uncomfortable
  • urinary problems, including increased infections and irritation, as well as sometimes difficulty with bladder control
  • decreased sex drive
  • problems sleeping
  • dry, itchy skin
  • thinning hair
  • loss of breast fullness
  • mood swings and anxiety
  • forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating
  • weight gain
  • increased risk for many chronic medical conditions 

The health concerns that women face after menopause can be significant.  Without the protective benefits of estrogen, women now have an equal risk for developing heart disease as men.  In addition, many women experience significant bone loss during the first few years after menopause, putting them at increased risk for osteoporosis, a potentially crippling condition that causes bones to become brittle and weak.  And finally, hormone imbalances can contribute to weight gain, especially in the abdomen and around the waist, which increases the risk for diabetes and some types of cancers.

Complications of Andropause
For men, hormonal changes are much more subtle.  But by mid-age, many men do experience the complications arising from andropause, a male version of the female menopause.

A drop in testosterone levels may result in a number of complications for men, beginning with erectile dysfunction or a drop in libido – usually for the first time in their lives.  But there may also be a noticeable loss of muscle tone, strength and mass, as well as weight gain with the telltale pot belly.  There could even be less growth of facial hair or breast enlargement.  Andropause also places men at risk for conditions such as:
  • Mood swings, anxiety, irritability and depression
  • Greater risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis
  • Increased number of general aches and pains and stiffness
  • Changes in cognitive function such as memory, focus and concentration
  • Changes in skin tone and elasticity
  • Problems sleeping and low energy

Correcting the Imbalance
At Southwest Age Intervention Institute, we take a proactive approach to turning back the clock.  The goal is to rebalance all of your hormones.  This means reducing levels of insulin and cortisol, which contribute to degenerative diseases and aging, and supplementing hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, DHEA, thyroid and progesterone.  You will not only feel better, but your body will benefit in numerous ways that will postpone premature aging, reduce your risk of serious disease and increase in your lifespan.

The proper regimen of hormone supplements and the dosage that your body requires for proper balance needs careful medical supervision.  Here is an overview of the various hormones and the role that each plays in your body.

Testosterone is produced in the testes in men and in the ovaries and adrenal glands in women.  It is vital for building muscle and strengthening the bones, as well as helping promote a sense of well-being.  It is also essential for maintaining sex drive and reducing the risk of erectile dysfunction in men.

Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and body fat.  Estrogen has many positive benefits, including reducing the risk for cardiovascular disease, and protecting the lining of the artery walls, as well as increasing HDL, the good cholesterol and reducing LDL, the bad cholesterol.  It also protects against osteoporosis and possibly Alzheimer’s, promotes healthy skin and helps regulate mood.  In women, it increases vaginal lubrication and thickens the vaginal wall.

Progesterone is produced by the ovaries in women and in the testes in men, as well as in the adrenal glands for both sexes.  Progesterone helps regulate blood sugar, aids in the conversion of fat to energy and strengthens bones. It has a beneficial influence on the nerves and mood, in addition to brain activity.

Thyroid hormones are produced in the thyroid gland, located around the base of the neck.  These hormones are vital for regulating metabolism, cell growth and body temperature.  An underactive thyroid gland can contribute to fatigue, constipation, difficulty concentrating, weight gain, tingling in the hands and feet, and poor tolerance of cold.

Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands.  Adrenal steroids or cortisol has an effect on metabolism, blood pressure, the immune system, energy levels and blood sugar levels.  The adrenals help fight infection.  They also send out hormones in response to the “fight or flight syndrome” when the body is under attack by a real or perceived danger, such as emotional stress.  Chronic stress can exhaust the adrenal glands and raise cortisol levels.

DHEA or dehydroepiandrosterone is secreted by the adrenal glands.  This hormone is a “precursor” to both estrogen and testosterone.  DHEA can help slow the aging process, improve cognitive ability, increase muscle mass, boost energy levels and the immune system, and increase sex drive.  It also may protect against cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s.

Fine-Tuning Your Hormones
At Southwest Age Intervention Institute, we develop an individually tailored plan for supplementing or replacing hormones based on sound and safe medical practices.  Hormone therapy is almost always prescribed in conjunction with attention to diet, nutrition, exercise, fitness levels and information on lifestyle factors such as stress management and smoking cessation.  A comprehensive plan will offer the most improvement for maintaining physical, mental, emotional and sexual health for a lifetime.

Call now to schedule your private executive health evaluation and learn how Southwest Age Intervention Institute can help you enjoy all the days of your life with exceptional health along the journey.


  1. Is it advisable for men with andropause to take Generic Viagra or any other male enhancement pills to maintain their sexual capabilities?