For many, getting older is a scary thought. Aging is often associated with a loss of livelihood and independence. We lie about our age, so others think we are filled with vigor and energy. Fortunately, it is possible to put the stigma surrounding aging to rest, and age really can be just a number. Instead of lying about your age, you can tell people the truth and watch their jaws hit the ground. Most importantly, you can look and feel better than you have in twenty years.
A big fear for many women is the "M" word or menopause. Lots of women think their life will be over once they hit menopause. Many are embarrassed to admit they have reached menopause instead of wearing it as a badge of honor. Instead, women frequently suffer in silence.
Men have not entirely embraced aging either. Many men have to face what is called andropause as they get older. Andropause can lead to decreased sex drive, fatigue, and muscle loss—just a few of the many symptoms men face as they age.
The Fight Against Aging
Some people are willing to go to extreme measures to combat the signs of aging. Pricey procedures and products seem to pop up on an almost daily basis. Some are willing to complete lengthy daily rituals. Some will do whatever it takes, because who doesn't want to look and feel their best regardless of their age?
If you have the time and money, many of the available procedures and products are effective ways to treat the symptoms of aging. However, the cause of most symptoms associated with aging is due to age-related changes in your hormone levels. It is possible to look and feel your best without other procedures and products by addressing the problem head-on.
All women experience menopause. With the exception of a woman having her ovaries removed before puberty, all women will experience menopause when they stop having their menstrual period or have their ovaries surgically removed. In the United States, natural menopause occurs at age 51 on average.
There are three stages of natural menopause. These include perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Perimenopause, or the menopause transition, is the time between the start of symptoms and one year after the menstrual period stops. One year after the menstrual period has stopped, menopause is confirmed. Postmenopause is all the years after menopause.
During these stages in life, women can experience many undesired symptoms such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness, irritability, fatigue, and sleep disturbances, just to name a few. These symptoms occur due to the natural decline in estrogen and progesterone associated with aging as women approach and reach menopause.
Andropause and Hypogonadism
Andropause is not exactly the male version of menopause. The age-related decline in testosterone results in similar symptoms of aging, but the decline is more gradual, and about thirty percent of men in their 50s experience symptoms.
Hypogonadism is another condition that causes unnaturally low levels of testosterone. With this condition, testicle dysfunction inhibits the body from producing enough testosterone.
Low testosterone levels can cause a reduction in sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, fewer spontaneous erections, changes in sleep patterns, difficulty concentrating, reduction in muscle mass and strength, decreased bone density, lack of motivation, enlarged breasts in men, depression, weight gain, hair loss, memory loss, urinary problems, and fatigue.
Instead of treating the symptoms, such as relying on sleeping pills to get a few hours of sleep or getting a hair transplant procedure to combat hair loss, an analysis of your hormones may reveal the cause of your symptoms. Simply optimizing your hormone levels can be an excellent solution for relieving many of the symptoms associated with aging.
Hormone therapy is typically delivered in two ways: 1) Local application of a cream, ring, or tablet that only affects a localized or specific body area. 2) Systemic hormones are available as an oral tablet, patch, gel, emulsion, spray, injection, or pellet and circulate throughout the bloodstream to all parts of the body.
The different delivery methods have their pros and cons. Specific methods are more appropriate depending on the individual situation. Working with a qualified practitioner, you can figure out a personalized plan that would be best for you.
Hundreds of studies have proved that hormone therapy effectively improves multiple symptoms associated with aging. Hormone therapy helps with hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and bone loss. These benefits often lead to an improvement in sexual relations, sleep, and quality of life.
Estrogen can decrease your risk of heart disease, osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, and mood changes. Other fantastic health benefits are a lowered risk of diabetes and colon cancer, decreased tooth loss, improved joint pain, and a lower death rate for women who take hormone therapy in their 50s.
Testosterone can improve energy levels, boost libido, reduce fatigue, increase bone density, encourage muscle growth, stimulate red blood cell production, reduce body fat, reduce anxiety, improve mood, and boost sexual performance.
Hormone therapy received a bad name after the Women's Health Initiative trial in 2002. During this study, Premarin and Prempro, two high potency synthetic estrogen and progestin combination products, were being studied to determine the benefits and risks of hormone therapy in postmenopausal women. The study was stopped early after a small increased risk of cardiovascular disease, breast cancer, blood clots, and stroke was found. Following this study, the US Food and Drug Administration required all estrogen-containing prescription therapies to carry a "black box" warning. Even though only those two products were studied, and studies have not shown harm when estradiol and progesterone are given, the risks of breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots are assumed. Progesterone is added for women with a uterus who use estrogen to protect against uterine or endometrial cancer. The risks are higher in men and women older than 60.
Hormone therapy is not appropriate for everyone. Suppose you have a history of breast cancer, stroke, active liver disease, endometrial cancer, prostate cancer, an elevated PSA, unexplained vaginal bleeding, or blood clots. In that case, you may not be a good candidate for hormone therapy.
Depending on the hormone delivery method, some possible side effects are irregular spotting (women), monthly bleeding (women), breast tenderness, mood swings, changes in voice, acne, breast enlargement (men), decreased testicle size (men), worsening sleep apnea, decreased sperm count (men), noncancerous growth of the prostate (men), infertility (men), increased number of red blood cells. Some less common side effects are fluid retention, headaches, skin discoloration, high cholesterol, increased breast density, and skin irritation.
The potential benefits, risks, and side effects listed are not all-inclusive. Please discuss these with your healthcare provider before deciding on hormone therapy.
Nothing to Fear
For the majority of people, the benefits of therapy are considered to outweigh the risks.
Risk does not mean that harm will happen. However, there are ways you can reduce your risks if you are a candidate for hormone therapy.
Find the best product and delivery method for you.
Individualization is essential when it comes to hormone therapy. The products used and the delivery method should be discussed with a qualified provider. In some situations, synthetic hormones may be appropriate, and other times bioidentical hormones (hormones chemically identical to the ones you naturally produce) will be more appropriate.
Use the lowest effective dose.
Most of the risks and side effects associated with hormone therapy are dose-dependent. Reducing or stopping treatment can completely reverse the side effects.
Maintain healthy lifestyle choices.
Eating a balanced diet and participating in regular physical activity, as well as managing your chronic health conditions, can make hormone therapy safer.
Don't wait until you hit rock bottom. At the first sign of symptoms, get your hormone levels evaluated. Starting hormone therapy early typically results in the most effective treatment.
Seek regular follow-up and preventative care.
Schedule regular visits with your practitioner to ensure the benefits continue to outweigh the risks. Screenings such as mammograms, pelvic exams, prostate exams, etc., should be regularly scheduled.