As we age our body changes a lot and scientists are only beginning to understand what causes these changes. It was only in the 1940’s that gerontology; the study of aging, became a specific branch of medicine. Today gerontologists believe hormones play an important role in the way we age and say we shouldn’t fret about it.
The Vital Job of Hormones
Hormones are among the most important chemical messengers in the human body. Men and women need the testosterone and estrogen that is in their systems. Hormones help regulate body temperature, sugar levels and blood levels. They are an incredible force in our teenage years and naturally decline as we get older.
Many people worry that as they age their hormones will change to the point where it impacts their lifestyle and well-being, yet the scientific community is saying that we can’t jump to conclusions; that there is no reason to panic about aging as it relates to male and female sex hormones.
Scientists say there is so much we still don’t know about hormones like testosterone and estrogen. They don’t know whether hormone changes control the speed at which we age or are a consequence of other changes in our body.
The Role of Testosterone
According to the U.S Census Bureau 4 to 5 million American men are reported to have low testosterone. Only half will ever experience any significant symptoms as a result. Men have both testosterone and estrogen as do women; however men have much more testosterone, while women produce a higher amount of estrogen. When men age, many do notice a decline in testosterone levels, but this is considered a normal part of aging. It may mean that the man does not have as much interest in sex, yet research shows absolutely no interest in sex is more likely due to significantly low testosterone levels that can be caused by accidents, cancer or even cancer treatments; as opposed to simply aging.
Women and Estrogen
Estrogen is the sex hormone that is produced to stimulate growth of a female’s sex organs, as well as her breasts and pubic hair. It has the important job of regulating the menstrual cycle.
People think estrogen levels don’t decline until menopause but doctors now know that this is not the case. While the levels may in fact dip more significantly around the age of 50, many physicians will tell you that estrogen production starts to decline in the majority of women before they reach the age of 40.
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Endocrinologists’ see patients of all ages for problems associated with hormones. In some cases the issue is related to low levels of estrogen, but it doesn’t always have to do with the aging process. Sudden weight loss, cancer, cancer treatments, ovarian cysts and benign tumors known as prolactinoma can affect estrogen levels.
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There continues to be debate in the medical and scientific communities about the influence the natural decline of hormones has on us as we age. Some people are convinced that hormone supplements can alter the aging process; however, there doesn’t appear to be enough solid evidence to support supplementation. The hormone replacement therapy debate rages on. No two doctors seem to agree on whether it is good or bad for people. Some anti-aging practitioners like to prescribe human growth hormones to patients as they get older, but to date there is no strong research that shows this helps with aging.
Genetics and Hormones
There are many in the medical field that believe genetics play a role in how we age, not just hormones. For instance, when researchers have adjusted the genes in certain mice, they have been able to almost double their lifespan. Some scientific researchers estimate genetics account for up to as much as 35 per cent of the variation in aging among human beings.
No one is denying that there is a link between declining hormone levels and the passage of time. What researchers are trying to teach the public is that hormones are a good thing…we can’t survive without them and that declining hormone levels as we get older does not necessarily spell doom and gloom; there are so many factors linked to how we age.