Important Hormones That Decrease With Age
by Lisa Wells, RN
The reason why hormones are so important is the fact that they control virtually every biological process in the body. They tell the cells what proteins to manufacture and tell the organs which functions to perform. When hormones decline less information is transmitted and so the body functions less efficiently.
Hormone production peaks in the early to mid 20's and then begins a slow decline. The effects of this decline are not often felt until we reach our 40's or 50's. By then hormone levels have usually declined to the point where our condition and function are noticeably altered.
Referred to as the "mother of all hormones" DHEA is the most abundant anabolic steroid hormone in the body. DHEA promotes the renewal and replacement of tissues and helps to maintain a healthy immune system.
DHEA is also very active in the brain. It promotes neurotransmitter production, and so is crucial for maintaining both short term and long term memory.
Another reason why DHEA is so important is the fact that it can be converted in the body into other steroid hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
DHEA also plays an important role in keeping cortisol, the stress hormone low. In the young and healthy DHEA is high and cortisol is low. As age progresses DHEA decreases and cortisol usually increases. High cortisol and low DHEA are serious risk factors for heart disease, diabetes, other diseases, obesity, and accelerated aging.
Human growth hormone is considered the hormone of youth. It is responsible for the rapid growth and development of children and is also responsible for their astounding healing powers.
Once adulthood is reached HGH becomes the repair and rejuvenation hormone. It also works throughout life to maintain brain function, muscle tone, bone strength, and the integrity of the skin and hair.
Unfortunately, the body's production of HGH diminishes with age.
Testosterone is the major sex hormone in men, and it is also important to women. It affects neurological function and mood, and it fuels feelings of confidence, optimism, motivation, and aggressiveness.
Physically testosterone is very important in the growth and repair of muscles and certain organs. With the decrease of testosterone comes a decrease in lean muscle and an increase in body fat.
Testosterone protects the heart muscle and helps to keep cholesterol and blood pressure balanced. Libido, sexual function, and the male urinary and reproductive systems are also promoted by testosterone.
Testosterone levels decrease with age. In men the progressive decrease of testosterone with age is called andropause.
Estrogen is the major sex hormone in women and it is also produced in lesser quantities in men. Besides its effects on the female reproductive system estrogen also promotes youthful cell behavior. It supports a wide range of tissues and organs including the heart, brain, liver, bones, urinary tract, skin, and blood vessels. Cognitive activity, mood, and memory are also supported by estrogen.
Estrogen production decreases with age, with the end result being menopause in women, and the age and disease promoting effects that come with menopause.
Progesterone is another important hormone in women but it is also important in men. In women it prepares the uterus for the fertilized ovum and maintains pregnancy. It also helps to protect breast tissue by preventing excessive proliferation of both normal and cancerous cells. In men it plays an important role in prostate health and is a powerful inhibitor of DHT.
In both women and men it helps to protect the brain and helps to keep bones strong by facilitating the deposition of calcium in the bone.
Progesterone also decreases with age and decreases substantially in women with the onset of menopause.
Thyroid hormone is the body's regulator and thermostat. It controls energy metabolism, regulating how much energy is stored as fat and how much is released into the bloodstream for use. The thyroid regulates your temperature, sleep patterns, digestive function, and is essential to the body's ability to fight infections and even mutant cells via the immune system. Thyroid hormone also plays an important role in maintaining healthy cognitive functions and mood.
Thyroid is another hormone that declines with age.
Melatonin is a hormone that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain. The pineal gland is the body's biological clock and melatonin plays a major role in the setting of this clock. Melatonin controls our sleep cycle and seasonal rhythms. In animals it controls mating and hibernation, and it is believed to help regulate the menstrual cycle in women.
Melatonin is one of the most powerful antioxidants known. It fights cancer by acting as an intracellular antioxidant and is perhaps the only antioxidant that can penetrate every cell of the body. Melatonin also protects the immune system by fighting the effects of stress. It helps to counter the immune suppressing effects of cortisol.
In humans melatonin levels are highest in children and decrease with age. Lower levels of melatonin signal the immune system to begin shutting down and also signal the endocrine system to produce fewer sex hormones. Alas, once we are past the reproductive phase of life we see a drastic decrease in melatonin and this decrease triggers the body to begin breaking down altogether, and we know where that eventually leads.
Surely the fact that the body's hormones decrease with age is not good news. Especially once we know what happens to the body as the result of not having enough hormones. Luckily, each of the hormones I mentioned above can be improved and restored to a more healthy level.
Some hormones such as DHEA and melatonin can be purchased over the counter at your local health food store or pharmacy. Others can be improved either by taking prescribed synthetic versions of the hormones or by taking non- prescription products to help boost the body's own production of the hormone.
There is much more information available about these hormones. My recommendation is to educate yourself and speak with your doctor about beginning or advancing an effective anti-aging protocol.
Lisa Wells, RN
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