Why are so many of our elderly population, especially women, suffering with osteoporosis, weak bladder and pelvic floor muscles, and urinary tract infections? Have you noticed how aging really affects people? Sure, we naturally experience muscle loss (sarcopenia), loss of skin tone, bone density depletion (osteopenia), sleep deficiency, balance problems, cognitive decline, loss of libido, fatigue, digestive problems, etc. as we age, but are we addressing the key components of aging?
What if we looked at anti-aging a different way? The fountain of youth is elusive, but one thing we do know is that we all get older. It has been said that is is not about adding years to your life that matters, but adding life to your years! The key to aging gracefully, is not necessarily to have less wrinkles, but to have more energy, a zeal for life, mobility, a brain that works well, a low level of pain and the ability to know your limitations without compromising your overall health.
Even though we may need less sleep, less food, less activity to function, it does NOT mean we don’t need to continue to be properly nourished, well-rested and as agile as possible. What we do know is that certain hormones that decrease with age can have a very dramatic effect on our health. These include Growth Hormone, Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone, DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) and Melatonin. These hormones are produced by endocrine glands and are largely affected by receptor site function, medication use, illness such as autoimmune disease, cancer, stress, diet and your environment. They decrease with age and one of the best ways to replenish them and rejuvenate your health is with Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
HRT recommendations have fluctuated over the years. One of the reasons HRT is considered controversial is that the results of a very large study called the Women’s Initiative in 2003 suggested that HRT can lead to increased risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Since then doctors have been wary of prescribing. In recent years, however, it has become more common to administer the hormone support to women because the benefits outweigh the risks.
The decision to replace your hormones is a very individualized determination, and should be considered carefully between you and your doctor. There are many ways to test for hormone loss, but one of the most accurate is a 24 -hour urine test. I happen to like the DUTCH test but there are others that are similar. Make sure you find a physician who is knowledgeable and even passionate about this topic.
Many of my patients complain of incontinence, chronic urinary tract infections, joint pain, hair loss, sleep problems, weight gain, high blood pressure and mood swings. It is possible that hormone therapy, in my opinion – bio-identical (plant derived hormones), can have a protective and beneficial effect on post-menopausal symptoms: sagging skin, dry vaginal tissue, hot flashes, muscle loss, sleep deficiency, brittle bones, heart palpitations and brain fog. Too many people are needlessly suffering and although diet, lifestyle and attitude play a huge role in how we heal, I believe there is more that can be done.
What if women, who make up a higher percentage of nursing home residents, began taking hormone replacement therapies years before they ended up in those places with walkers, canes and in wheel chairs? Could their declining health be prevented?
I am convinced we need to do a better job assessing and managing women’s health as we age.