Signs and symptoms of needing hormone therapy.
Our hormone system is like a balancing act. More than 50 hormones work together simultaneously to tell our cells what to do and how to act so our bodies keep functioning properly. As we age, the balancing act gets complicated, affecting our bone density, libido, mood, sleep patterns, body fat, and muscles.
“Hormone decline is exceptionally common as people age. It happens to everybody at some point.”— DR. TOM NITTLER
“Hormone decline is exceptionally common as people age,” says Dr. Tom Nittler, MD, with JC Total Health. “It happens to everybody at some point. But, it affects our lives, so is it worth feeling that way because it’s a normal part of aging? Or, is it worth taking the initiative to keep us feeling better?”
Dr. Nittler owns JC Total Health and sees patients seeking treatment for sex and thyroid hormone imbalances. During a consultation, most people mention they haven’t felt like themselves. They express embarrassment and frustration with their symptoms. However, there are a lot of people who go through hormone changes.
Some people may experience low energy, negative sleep patterns, and lack of drive at home or work, but they rarely attribute this to their hormones. Symptoms of hormone decline can overlap with other health issues, such as mild depression, making it challenging to pin-point. The more tell-tale symptoms of hormone decline include: decrease in libido, erectile dysfunction, irregular menstrual cycle, and hot flashes.
“There are normal parts of aging that we can’t control, but we’d all like to control the parts we can for as long as possible.”— DR. TOM NITTLER
Hot flashes can occur because of low estrogen levels while symptoms of erectile dysfunction signal low testosterone levels. Most patients notice these changes around their 40s or 50s, but some can notice imbalances and seek treatment earlier. On the contrary, Dr. Nittler has also seen patients in their 80s and 90s. Other reported symptoms can include challenges maintaining muscle, staying strong, and avoiding weight gain with regular exercise. It should also be known that hormone decline can occur after a major surgery, pregnancy, an illness like COVID-19, or a psychological stressor like the loss of a loved one or divorce. Hormones frequently rebound, but sometimes they don’t — or at least they may not all the way. Knowing the symptoms, and how they impact daily life, can help determine if talking to a hormone specialist is the next step.
Quality of Life
“Health care professionals don’t know how to stop hormone decline from happening,” Dr. Nittler says.“ Historically, people didn’t live much longer than the period of time when our sex hormones lasted. Now, the average life expectancy is 76 — potentially 30 more years after our sex hormones start to drop. This affects how we feel, how we interact with the world, and how we interact with our loved ones.”
For example, say a stress trigger is lingering. Too much stress leads to the adrenal glands releasing adrenaline and cortisol, putting the body in a fight or flight mode. If the stress doesn’t go away, that response may run nonstop.
“The chronic stress hormones, our adrenal hormones, are the enemies of our sex hormones,” Dr. Nittler says.
The good news is sex hormones can be improved and put within a younger, healthier range. Talking to a primary care provider about hormone replacement therapy is a great option if the symptoms are becoming problematic. There’s a common misconception that if someone starts hormone replacement therapy, they’re stuck on it forever, but that simply isn’t true. When stopping hormone therapy, the symptoms that were sought to control when coming in for the evaluation can frequently come back, but it is not dangerous to stop. Patients may receive a variety of treatment options depending on their needs. Side effects, hassles, and frustrations should be low, and benefits should be high.
There are ways to improve hormone levels without seeking professional treatment. Years of certain habits can cause several health challenges including hormone decline. It’s important to try to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, overuse of drugs, as well as poor sleep, diet, and exercise habits. Instead, look for lifestyle changes that improve wellness. Healthy habits can been coded in the brain, however, they can be replaced by the stronger unhealthy habits that people become accustomed to. The more people get to know themselves, and their personal habits, the better they can create patterns that work for them. These can include spending more time in places that create happiness, practicing gratitude, reading a book, listening to music, or saying affirmations aloud. All these things can help lower stress hormone levels.
Although hormone decline is a natural change with age, Dr. Nittler says that doesn’t mean solutions aren’t worth it. By improving overall health, patients can reduce detrimental health declines.
“There are normal parts of aging that we can’t control, but we’d all like to control the parts we can for as long as possible,” Dr. Nittler says.
Symptoms of Hormone Decline:
– Libido decreases
– Erectile dysfunctions
– Irregular menstrual cycle
– Hot fl ashes
How to Lower Stress Hormones:
+ Find a happy place
+ Practice gratitude
+ Read a book
+ Listen to music
+ Say affirmations aloud