Age Impacts Hormone Imbalances in Men and Women

By Shellie Rosen, Ph.D., Dipl. O.M. (NCCAOM)®, DOM, L.Ac.

Male and female reproductive hormones are involved in many body systems outside of reproduction, such as energy, mood, bone density, cardiovascular health, and even muscle growth. Monitoring your hormones throughout your lifespan, as they decline with age, is beneficial. Toxins, poor food quality, limited sun exposure, and low physical activity also affect hormones, which is why one might rely on herbs, supplements, and hormone replacement therapy to support robust energy and health.

Men experience a shift in hormone changes starting in their 30s, as testosterone slowly begins to descend. Late-onset hypogonadism (LOH), or testosterone deficiency in middle age, can cause significant changes. Some men experience andropause, also referred to as “male menopause.” By the late 40s, men can experience symptoms such as a lack of energy, insomnia, depression, mood swings, loss of sexual drive and function, loss of muscle mass, weight gain, male breast growth (gynecomastia), lowered pain tolerance, and a lack of mental clarity.

Women’s ovaries reduce estrogen and progesterone around age 50. Hot flash symptoms can last past age 60, but other hormone-related changes, such as vaginal dryness and atrophy, painful intercourse, decreased libido, insomnia, irritability, and osteoporosis, can last indefinitely.

For these symptoms, and after a hysterectomy or ovary removal, women are often prescribed hormones. Estriol is a bio-identical hormone used successfully in post-menopausal women for decades. Unfortunately, fears around hormone replacement therapy (HRT) began after the Women’s Health Initiative hormone trials in the late 90s, which used synthetic hormones and showed unfavorable side effects for post-menopausal women. Synthetic and animal-derived hormones correlate with an increased risk of heart disease, breast cancer, elevated insulin levels, and potential blood clotting. The good news is that long-term studies show bio-identical hormones to be a better alternative to synthetics to remedy post-menopausal symptoms and benefit overall health because they are biologically similar to human hormones.

Both men and women need testosterone (although men need more by volume) throughout aging to help maintain valuable skeletal muscle, reduce fall risk, and benefit mobility. Weightlifting or resistance training stimulates testosterone and muscle growth while boosting metabolism. Testosterone levels rise during sleep, and a lack of sleep may affect overall production levels, so do your best to protect your deep sleep.

Consider the ayurvedic herb ashwagandha for an herbal option, which lowers cortisol and helps testosterone production. Royal maca is an herb often used in hormone health for mood and to enhance male and female sex drive. Exercise, a healthy diet, zinc, omega-3s, vitamin D, and calcium also help with hormone production. When appropriate, both men and women find benefits from supplementing bioidentical testosterone.

Hormone health is essential after age 65. Consider researching specific aspects related to your unique conditions, and request blood tests (progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone for women, and testosterone for men) to determine with your practitioner what type of hormone replacement therapy fits your needs. Start slowly, and monitor your outcomes and blood levels routinely with your practitioner to see how your body processes hormones over time. Abundant blessings.

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