We’ve all heard jokes about “hormones running wild,” but in reality, humans have over 50 hormones that control most bodily functions. Hormones are essential for your health, helping you grow and develop but also maintaining your sleep cycle, controlling your emotions and mood, and sustaining brain functions such as concentration and memory.
As we age, certain hormones inevitably decline. In men, a slow decline of testosterone begins at age 30 and continues for the rest of their lives. For women, the advent of menopause causes a major hormonal change with both estrogen and progesterone production fluctuating and decreasing.
So what is wrong?
Let’s play a bit of word association. When you hear menopause, do you immediately think of hot flashes? For men, low testosterone or “low T” brings erectile dysfunction top of mind. But did you know that weight gain, depression, and trouble with sleep, memory, and concentration can all be caused by hormonal imbalances?
So often, we attribute these symptoms to getting older without a second thought of hormonal health.
How to get your hormones back on track
Doctors and researchers are constantly learning more about hormones. Given ongoing developments and the highly personalized nature of hormones, it can be hard to navigate it all and figure out what is best for you.
Once your hormone levels have been tested, working with a doctor to create a personalized plan to combat hormonal imbalances can get you feeling young again in a way that works for you.
Sometimes, easy fixes like changes in diet, exercise, or sleep routines, are all it takes. Even a slight deviation in hormone levels can have a big impact, so sometimes, it does not take much to bounce back.
In other cases, more intervention may be necessary. Hormone replacement therapy, HRT, got a bad reputation years ago based on myths that have long been disproven. For men and women, hormone therapy might be the right option to get you back to living a life you can enjoy.
Hormones improve mood and memory
So often as we age, we find ourselves forgetting things like where we left our keys or if we have told a story before.
The term “brain fog” is starting to be associated with long COVID, but it is not a new phenomenon. As women and men age, they often begin having trouble with memory, concentration, depression, or anxiety. Testosterone and estrogen play a key role in memory and cognition, so when these hormones start to drop, it gets harder to stay focused, recall words, and avoid confusion. It may sound scary, but getting your hormone levels back up can do a lot to support brain function.
New research suggests that hormone optimization may also play a protective role against memory loss and Alzheimer’s. When estrogen and testosterone levels decline, that protection goes away. Keeping your hormones balanced can keep you healthy and save you the embarrassment of forgetting an old friend’s name when you run into them in the grocery store.
Keep your heart healthy
Heart attacks are a scary part of being older. With age, risk factors increase, but hormones do not have to be one of them.
In fact, returning estrogen and testosterone to optimal levels can lower the risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, the majority of people that die of coronary heart disease are 65 or older. Optimizing your hormones can minimize that threat and keep you feeling good.
Prevent broken bones
Breaking a bone is never fun, but it can be catastrophic for an older adult. And yet, it is so much more common as we age because the rate of bone breakdown surpasses that of new bone growth. Unless it occurs secondary to another disease, osteoporosis is not common until estrogen and testosterone levels drop.
Preventing osteoporosis is one of the most well-documented benefits of hormone optimization, enhancing bone strength and health, which could stop a minor fall from becoming life-threatening.
Manage chronic pain
Aches and pains can make it hard to put the dishes away or get out of bed. In 2019, 20.4% of adults had chronic pain, and 7.4% had chronic pain that frequently limited life or work activities.
Women in menopause or men with low T are more sensitive to pain because when estrogen and testosterone are low, the body’s internal system for regulating pain does not work as well. Maintaining appropriate hormone levels can reduce pain and get you back moving around and keeping up with the grandkids.
Boost your sexual health
Getting older does not mean your sex life has to be over. In men, low libido and erectile dysfunction, ED, are the most commonly reported symptom of low T. Once women reach their early 40s, loss of libido and vaginal dryness is common.
Hormone optimization can turn things around and get you back to feeling good about yourself and your partner. Maintaining sexual health helps ensure a high quality of life as you get older.
Hormones work hard to keep our bodies in check and connected. Without proper balance, people are left navigating serious, and sometimes life-altering, symptoms. As you get older and start to feel the wear and tear of “age,” talk to your doctor. You do not have to accept aging gracefully when you can age while staying yourself.
About the Author
Dr. Cory Rice is the Chief Clinical Advisor for Biote, serves on the Medical Advisory Board at Biote, and is the owner of Modern Medicine, providing patients with personalized, progressive, comprehensive medical care. Dr. Rice’s background is Internal Medicine, but he now practices Functional Medicine and Lifestyle Medicine; his professional interests include nutrition based chronic disease management, thyroid management, longevity precision medicine, and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy for men and women. His clinical expertise lies in most areas of chronic disease and ultimately the treatment and reversal of some of the more commonly encountered conditions in clinical practice today. His main focus in his practice is on wellness and prevention, nutrition, therapeutic lifestyle change and appropriate hormone balancing for men and women.