We’ve unpacked a lot of causes, signs, and symptoms of hormone imbalance throughout every phase of life. We thought it appropriate to save the last installment of this series for the generation who is now enjoying their twilight years. As far as imbalances go, there may not be as many, per se, as you age as much as your hormone levels just start to change. With that being said, let’s take a look at what to expect as we graduate into the golden years.
It’s a common misconception that everything starts to decrease as we age. That’s simply not true. What’s really going on is that the hormone receptors are becoming less sensitive. Adding to that, some endocrine organs may be producing the same amount of hormones at a slower rate. In fact, there are really only a few that actually decrease including:
- Estrogen (in women), leading to menopause–diagnosed after going 12 months without having a period, the average age being 51 in the United States.
- Testosterone (in men)
- Growth hormone
Some hormones remain the same or decrease just a little, including:
Still, some hormones may increase including:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone
- Luteinizing hormone
- Epinephrine (especially in the elderly)
- Parathyroid hormone
With the decline in some hormones and rise in others, there’s a cornucopia of symptoms to look for. And once again, we find that symptoms and signs are usually not the same for men and women. Take menopause (and perimenopause) or example. Obviously, men are off the hook, so to speak, on this one but women need to be aware of:
- Irregular periods
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Night Sweats
- Sleep problems
- Mood changes
- Weight gain and slowed metabolism
- Thinning hair and dry skin
- Loss of breast fullness
And gentlemen, as far as declining testosterone goes, you get to look forward to:
- Changes in sexual function. Possibly including reduced sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, fewer spontaneous erections, and infertility. Not to mention your testes might become smaller as well.
- Changes in sleep patterns. Sleep disturbances can occur such as insomnia or increased sleepiness.
- Physical changes. Including increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk and strength, and decreased bone density. Swollen or tender breasts (gynecomastia) and possible loss of body hair. You might experience hot flashes and have less energy, but that’s rare.
- Emotional changes. Low testosterone can decrease your motivation or self-confidence causing sadness or even depression. You may have trouble concentrating or remembering things. It’s important to recognize these changes for what they are. You may find talking with a mental health professional helpful.
That’s a lot to take in and be mindful of, we know. Although we can’t turn back the clock to those of our younger years when we were in our prime, we can certainly look ahead to what’s coming and know what’s happening in and with our bodies. Knowing what to expect can keep you ahead of the curve and empower you to be proactive when your hormones start throwing you those curveballs.