Anti-Aging Fundamentals: Hormone Balancing
Legend has it that the Spanish Conquistadors of colonial America searched Florida high and low to locate the fabled Fountain of Youth. The “forever young” elixir has remained undiscovered since then – or has it?
Research increasingly demonstrates the close link between optimal hormone levels and slower aging. The proof is in the pudding. Vitality Sciences patients who receive hormone replacement therapy (HRT) report feeling younger, more vibrant, and more optimistic than they have in decades.
It’s time to rethink the concept of “aging” – as always, from a science-backed perspective — and what it means for our lives as we move into mid-life and beyond. As Betty Friedan put it, “Aging is not lost youth but a new state of opportunity and strength.”
How Does Aging Affect the Hormones?
Some wrongfully and unscientifically claim that declining levels of critical hormones such as testosterone and human growth hormone are a “natural” aspect of aging that we must accept.
This analysis is not true. No biological rule states that hormones must become unbalanced across time to the degree that they do in the average American. Rather, how we live our lives exerts enormous influence over the aging process.
Poor lifestyle practices – not necessarily associated with aging per se – deteriorate hormone health as we age. This can create a misleading illusion that age itself is driving the process when the data shows otherwise:
“Ageing-induced effects are difficult to disentangle from the influence of other factors that are common in older people, such as chronic diseases, inflammation, and low nutritional status, all of which can also affect endocrine systems.”
There is the hard truth: the hormone changes that are commonly attributed to “age” are actually due to other factors. These factorcs include the effects of which accumulate over time. Examples of the underlying causes of age-related hormone imbalance include:
- Poor diet (heavy on processed foods and light on nutritious, whole foods).
- Lack of regular exercise – especially weightlifting for men.
- Certain pharmaceutical medications that disrupt hormone function.
- Drug and alcohol abuse.
- Inadequate sleep (especially harmful to human growth hormone levels).
- Chronic stress.
The Role of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Aging
What is the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis)? Simply stated, it is a network of hormones and glands that is an integral component of the hormone system in humans. This has profound implications for the aging process.
A dysfunctional HPA axis, commonly seen in aging patients with hormone imbalances, is known to “contribute to aging-related diseases. These included but are not limited to depression, cognitive deficits, and Alzheimer’s disease in some older individuals. In addition to neurocognitive dysfunction, it has also been associated with declining physical performance possibly due to sarcopenia.”
Correcting HPA axis functioning (through hormone replacement therapy when necessary), slows the aging process and improves the symptoms of hormone imbalance.
Which Hormones Are Affected in the Aging Process and How?
In the process of the endocrine system becoming unbalanced, the levels of individual hormones may increase, decrease, or stay the same.
The hormones with levels that generally decline with age include:
- Human growth hormone (HGH)
- Testosterone (men)
- Estrogen (women)
The hormones with levels that usually stay the same with age include:
- Thyroid hormones
The hormones with levels that often increase with age include:
- Parathyroid hormone
- Luteinizing hormone (LH)
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
Hormone Feedback Loops
The level at any given moment of one hormone has (often profound) effects on the production and release (or lack thereof) of other hormones.
These interactions are called “feedback loops.” From a physiological perspective, these feedback loops do a number of things. For one, they keep the respective levels of individual hormones in check. Furthermore, they also optimize the ratio of one hormone to another.
This feedback mechanism of the endocrine system is the reason that we must increase the levels of hormones. As you see in the first group (HGH, testosterone for men, estrogen for women, and melatonin) in the case of deficiency to achieve system-wide balance.
Levels of Critical Hormones Decline With Age
In a previous section we discussed three major red flags for an imbalanced hormone system. These include:
- Declining blood concentrations of testosterone (in men)
- Estrogen (in women)
- Human growth hormone (in both sexes).
The good news is that each of these hormones can be supplemented through therapy.
For men 40 and above, maintaining optimal testosterone levels should be your first priority when it comes to hormone health.
In healthy men, normal testosterone levels perform several functions, including:
- Supporting high energy levels.
- Optimizing bone and muscle strength.
- Maintaining interest in sex (libido).
- Facilitating full erections.
- Promoting healthy sperm production.
- Sustaining mental health and keeping depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions at bay.
Testosterone levels in men drop by 1% per year on average after they peak in late adolescence/early adulthood.
As you can see, both “total” and “free” testosterone levels drop across the lifespan.
“Free” testosterone refers to unbound testosterone in circulation – the bioavailable form of the hormone. Just 1-2%, on average, of all testosterone in the male body is “free.”
“Total” testosterone, in contrast, measures “free” testosterone plus “bound” testosterone. This is testosterone that is attached to albumin and sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG). It is essentially unusable.
Both metrics have important implications for male health. It is the gain in bioavailable “free” testosterone that confers the greatest health benefits in the form of greater energy and sexual vitality.
Some labs and healthcare providers measure only “total” testosterone levels. This is a mistake because high “total” testosterone counts can mask true testosterone deficiency in cases where “free” testosterone levels are sub-par.
Vitality Sciences performs standard tests for all of our patients to gauge both “free” and ‘total” testosterone levels. Armed with the whole hormonal picture, patient and doctor can plan the ideal course of therapy if necessary.
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone. In women, estrogen performs the following functions:
- Preserving bone and joint health.
- Maintaining interest in sex (libido).
- Preventing blood clots and other cardiovascular events.
- Regulating menstrual cycle.
- Optimizing mental health.
- Normalizing cholesterol levels.
Women most often experience the signs of estrogen deficiency as they move through middle age. Estrogen loss over time culminates in menopause, characterized by the stoppage of her period (menstrual cycle).
Women in various stages of menopause benefit physically, mentally, and emotionally from HRT with bioidentical estrogen.
Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (HGH) is an important anabolic (pro-growth) hormone that works in tandem with insulin-like growth factor1 (IGF-1) to perform the following functions in both the male and female body:
- Regulating body composition (fat distribution).
- Stimulating muscle tissue development.
- Fortifying bone density and strength.
- Protecting heart function.
- Optimizing sugar and fat metabolism (calorie burning).
- Stabilizing mood.
Contrary to popular belief, HGH plays a critical role in health maintenance throughout the life cycle – not just during childhood.
As with testosterone in men and estrogen in women, HGH (and corresponding IGF-1) levels are, on average, substantially lower in older individuals.
HRT with HGH (somatropin) can safely restore optimal supplies of the hormone in the blood and improve muscle mass, fat burning, and mood.
Contact Vitality Sciences
Get in touch with Vitality Sciences to learn more about how “Fountain of Youth” hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can improve your own health and quality of life.
Use the web contact form, call (561) 767-8225, or visit Vitality Sciences headquarters at 4520 Donald Ross Rd #115 in Palm Beach Gardens to learn more.
The friendly, expert Vitality Sciences staff is ready to answer any question or concerns that you have about HRT, its benefits, and how you can begin therapy to restore your hormone health.