Menopause and Andropause – Hormone Replacement Therapy to Reverse Aging
The human body is really quite a marvel; a marvel that we don’t really take the time to appreciate very much. We go through our entire lives just seeing what’s on the surface; our skin, our eyes, our hair. Every time you look in the mirror, you see a face looking right back at you, and you identify with it. You don’t need to think much about it, you just know that that is your image. As such, your perception of who you really are isn’t very complete.
Few people truly appreciate how much work the body does underneath the skin to keep you functioning. The sweat glands that keep you cool during the hot days, the liver that breaks down fats from food that you eat, and your heart, which beats not only for the love in your life, but to bring oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to all parts of your body. The funny thing is…all of this happens without any conscious effort from you. Your body just does all of these things behind the scenes; like your very own personal assistant who works night and day to take care of you so that you can focus on living.
The Role of Hormones
From the moment you are born, your body acts like an intricate machine with millions of different processes that all come together to create YOU. All of the processes that occur without you even knowing about it are controlled by many factors, including unconscious brain activity and hormones.
Hormones play a huge role in how your body functions. Their role is to stimulate certain bodily functions; an ability for which they are often called ‘chemical messengers.’ For example, let’s look specifically at the sex hormones; estrogen and testosterone. These two are absolutely essential to our human identity and help make us who we are because they stimulate our sexual maturation during puberty, and give humans the capacity to reproduce.
Estrogen is one of the most important hormones for female reproductions. Without it, women wouldn’t develop breasts, wouldn’t experience menstrual cycles, and wouldn’t be able to conceive a child. It’s a chemical that we don’t really think about on a daily basis, but it plays a central role in a woman’s ultimate identity. In addition to reproduction, estrogen is thought to play a role in a multitude of other bodily functions, including women’s vascular health; by giving more flexibility to blood vessels.
Testosterone is the male sex hormone which allows boys to mature into men. It stimulates physical growth during adolescence, causes the deepening of the voice, maturation of the testes, and production of viable sperm. During adulthood, testosterone affects male sex drive, affects production of red blood cells, and even account for changes in bone mass.
Female Hormonal Decline: Menopause
Unfortunately, as we age, the hormone levels in our bodies begin to decline. This is no secret to most women, as this decline is commonly referred to as menopause. You’ve probably heard about it on TV or read articles about it, and the consensus from most women is that this period in their lives is not a very fun one. There’s a very good reason for that…
You see, your entire adult life you experience relatively stable amounts of estrogen in your body. As you go through your 20’s and 30’s these levels will of course change, but comparatively speaking, it is relatively stable from menstrual cycle to menstrual cycle.
During menopause, however, estrogen levels drop significantly. Typically, this occurs between the ages of 45 and 55, with the U.S. average being about 51 years old. For many women this is a big life event because it marks the end of their reproductive phase. At this point, menstrual cycles stop and a woman can no longer conceive a child.
However, something else happens…Your body now has to deal with a hormonal imbalance. As it struggles to cope, you begin to experience physical symptoms like hot flashes, migraines, mood swings, fatigue, decreased sexual desire, bone loss and even memory lapses. For many women, the symptoms can be quite severe, to the point of causing depression and apathy.
Male Hormonal Decline: Andropause
A topic that is covered significantly less in the media is andropause, or male menopause. Just like women, as men age, they will also experience a decline in their primary sex hormone; testosterone. This topic did not get nearly as much attention until recently.
Just like menopause, andropause carries a number of physical and psychological symptoms. The most well-known symptoms of testosterone loss include erectile dysfunction, loss of sex drive, and low semen volume. However, more subtle effects occur as well, and can have a huge impact on a man’s quality of life.
For example, men going through andropause may experience loss of muscle volume, hair loss, weight gain, mood changes, and aggression. These physical and psychological changes can even lead to changes in personality and general apathy, to the point that nothing seems fun or interesting anymore.
Is Hormone Replacement Therapy Effective?
Unfortunately, many individuals simply attribute the symptoms of menopause or andropause to “getting old.” Moments like these are usually accompanied with a shrug…”Eh, age is catching up to me.” But few realize that some of the most significant changes in their bodies are not caused by some ambiguous, faceless idea of “old age,” but by the drop in estrogen or testosterone!
The basic premise is really quite simple; because these hormones are considered to be chemical messengers, lower levels mean that some bodily processes aren’t stimulated, and that’s what leads to all the negative symptoms!
Now, because we understand what the problem is, we can actually treat low hormone levels by increasing them through special medications and hormone treatments. When the testosterone and estrogen levels are brought back to normal, many of the physical and psychological symptoms improve drastically. I have had many patients over the years who were amazed by the difference in how they felt when a proper hormone replacement therapy regimen was introduced.
What Makes Hormone Therapy Effective
It’s important to keep in mind that for hormone therapy to be effective, it must be administered with great care. Just as having too little of these hormones in your body creates negative symptoms, hormone levels that are too high will also create negative symptoms (in some cases significantly increasing risks of early death).
For example, when a patient visits me for hormone therapy in my office in Brea, I first conduct a very thorough physical workup. It’s essential for me to understand what the patient’s hormone levels are right now. Therefore, blood, urine and saliva testing is completed to measure levels of estrogen, DHEA, cortisol, testosterone and progesterone. This also helps me understand how the body is likely to react to the hormones. Every patient is unique, and it’s essential to know the current levels of these hormones in your body to figure out the strength of hormone replacement therapy needed.
However, I do not stop at the lab tests. One of my other big concerns for patients is to ensure they don’t have risk factors that could make hormone therapy unsafe for them. For example, my patients also typically go through a cancer screening, which includes a mammogram for women and a prostate exam for men. This is because hormone therapy can be dangerous for cancer patients, and should be avoided during time of treatment.
Once you are cleared for therapy, you’ll need to come in for monthly checkups to test your hormone levels. This monitoring ensures that your body is responding to treatment properly (again, it’s not like taking vitamins…hormone therapy has to be precise). After the treatment becomes fully established and your lab tests show consistent hormone levels, you’ll be able to decrease visits to two times a year. At that point, we know that your body is responding to the treatment in an acceptable manner.
Are All these Tests Really Necessary?
Look, I know that taking medical tests is not the preferred way for most people to spend their time. That’s why so many Americans end up turning to the Internet to find hormones online and try to administer it themselves. But this shortcut is a very bad idea. You cannot just buy a bottle with synthetic estrogen and testosterone, read the label that says “take 2 tablets per day!” and expect to have good results. If you do that, you are simply taking a big guess – you could be taking too much, too little, or the bottle could have fake chemicals that are not effective at all. (Too much of these hormones, by the way, can cause heart attacks and strokes in the long term.)
If you take your health seriously and you’d like to achieve safe, meaningful results with your hormone therapy treatment, it’s absolutely vital to take the guesswork out of the process. By conducting a number of tests, I can see exactly where your body is right now, and can devise a custom-tailored treatment plan designed specifically for you – not a one size fits all solution.
How Fast Will Results Appear?
Most of my hormone replacement therapy patients typically see results in several months. Once the body has adjusted back to pre-menopause/andropause levels, many patients experience a significant boost in energy, better moods, a higher sex drive, and an overall increase in their physical activity and interest in life.
If you’re concerned about menopause or andropause, please come and visit me in my office in Brea, CA. Hormone replacement therapy isn’t an overnight solution; it’s not like taking an aspirin for pain. But with a careful evaluation of your hormone levels, we can take the guesswork out of hormone replacement therapy and create a long term treatment plan that can help you feel healthier and younger for many years to come! As I like to say; we like to keep every woman and man at just 40 years young!
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