Aging Well: The Role of Hormones

By: Red Hot Mamas

Published: June 12, 2015

Contributed by Dr. Paul J. MacKoul, MDRed Hot Mamas Medical Expert

Aging well is a challenge we all face. Hormones play a leading role in how our bodies function, and can affect how healthy we feel. As doctors, we encourage all of our patients and their families to take a more active role in their health, which means gaining a deeper understanding of how the human body works.As we get older, production of some hormones decrease, while others increase, and the effects of both can show in rather frustrating ways. Hot flashes, pain having sex, osteoporosis and unwanted hair growth.Specifically as they relate to natural menopause, the three hormones that diminish over time, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone play vital roles in the production of sex hormones, but these hormones have a broader reach than the reproductive system.The ovaries are responsible for the production of estrogen and progesterone. Along with the adrenal glands, they also produce testosterone. These hormones are released by the ovary and circulate throughout the entire body. And like everything else in the body, these hormones do not operate in a vacuum.Many organs within the body have receptors for these hormones, such as the breast, uterine lining, vagina, bone, and blood vessels. These hormones are mainly responsible for reproduction, but also have a role in many other functions of the body, such as maintenance of bone and cardiovascular health, and in regulation of body fluid.As these hormones diminish in production over time, other hormones including parathyroid can increase. This is an essential point to grasp, because the hormones produced all over the body can affect a system that may seem unconnected.

BONE DENSITY: Parathyroid affects calcium and phosphate levels, directly affecting bone density. When there isn’t enough calcium in the blood stream, the body will pull it from the most available source. That’s why bones can weaken as we age. Hormone replacement therapy, if tailored appropriately to individual needs, can be an effective way to slow down the decrease in estrogen, which works to minimize loss of calcium from bones.

Menopause Onset Can Happen Surgically or Naturally

The average age of menopause in the United States is around 51. Perimenopause generally begins 4 years prior to menopause. As this is a moving target, it’s important to understand the symptoms as early as your late 30s/early 40s; These can include irregular menstrual cycles, endocrine changes, and symptoms such as hot flashes.

Menopause can also happen immediately after a bilateral (both sides) oopherectomy (ovary removal). Having an oopherectomy is a more definitive marker for menopause onset. However, the uterus does not produce hormones. Having a hysterectomy should not affect hormone production. Menstruation will cease, but menopause should not be a result.

Especially if you are preparing to have your ovaries removed, trying to understand the role of hormone replacement therapy afterwards can be confusing. Conflicting information from the healthcare industry and media has compounded the problem.

Whether a woman enters menopause naturally or surgically, choose a specialist with the experience to provide you with tailored hormone replacement therapy when appropriate, and understand that each woman experiences menopause differently.

Learn more about Dr. Paul J. MacKoul or The Center for Innovative GYN Care at innovativegyn.com.

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