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Aging and the Endocrine System – Understanding the Connection, Counteracting the Effects

By The Aesthetic GUIDE posted Feb 08, 2023 05:18 PM

Anti-aging hormone therapies allow patients to reclaim hope of counteracting age-related hormonal changes. With nearly 48% of menopausal American women taking hormone therapies, this industry is already a multi-billion-dollar business expected to reach around $53 billion by 2030. Francisco Llano, MD, a specialist in nutrition and anti-aging in Mexico City, Mexico, compares the endocrine system to an orchestra. “One out-of-tune hormone can result in significant changes to some of the body’s standard processes,” he said. In addition to skin aging, waning hormone levels manifest as weight gain, energy loss, decreased sex drive, sleepless nights, memory loss, mood swings, hot flashes, decreased muscle mass and more.

As the sex hormones estrogen (estradiol), progesterone, and testosterone lessen, shifts in bone health, protein synthesis, and muscle mass transpire in both sexes.

“There is this idea that only sex hormones age, but all hormones age,” Dr. Llano reported. Take, for example, declining cortisol, which hampers the body’s ability to react to stressors. Or changes to DHEA (considered an anti-aging hormone) levels. The adrenal gland shrivels, making low levels of DHEA, which compromises hormone function and can trigger dementia, osteoporosis, and cardiovascular disease.

Changes in sleep affect hormones as well. When melatonin is not secreted correctly, tiredness, increased weight and lack of energy result. Production of human growth hormone (HGH), which is critical for tissue and muscle growth, metabolism, cell division, strength, protein synthesis, and standard body structure, peaks during sleep. Growth hormone is paramount because of its involvement in the secretion of all other hormones, and a lack of it affects the body’s ability to carry out essential functions.

Other hormones, like cortisol, insulin, thyroid, follicle-stimulating, luteinizing, and parathyroid hormones, are equally susceptible to changes. However, not all hormones age proportionally or identically. For example, leptin (responsible for decreasing appetite and controlling weight) and the hunger hormone ghrelin do not decrease much. On the contrary, insulin – the only hormone that increases with age – causes insulin sensitivities, including glucose intolerance and diabetes.

Midlife Hormone Shifts

Menopause occurs in female patients around midlife and marks the end of the menstrual cycles. During this time estrogen dips suddenly, resulting in moodiness, hot flashes, sleeplessness, vaginal dryness and atrophy, as well as painful intercourse. Bone and skin health change as well.

According to Felice Gersh, MD (Irvine, Calif.), who is board certified in the practice of obstetrics and gynecology, as well as integrative medicine and an expert in menopause and hormones, “Estrogen-supported components of skin like fat, elastin and collagen levels change.” This can cause skin thinning, as well as an increase in wrinkles and dry skin. Chronic inflammation during menopause can also be attributed to low estrogen because estrogen regulates the immune system. “High levels of inflammation up-regulates 5-alpha reductase, which converts testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT), increasing hair growth on the face and hair loss on the head,” added Dr. Gersh.

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