As you move through the stages of life you experience a number of physical and mental changes that can be attributed to your hormones. Ageing is marked by fluctuations in hormones, meaning some hormones increase in production while others decrease (mostly the latter). To help you better understand what is happening in your body, we discuss some of the changes men and women are likely to experience as they grow older.
Menopause is the most common consequence of ageing-related hormonal changes in a woman’s body. Around the age of 50, ovaries begin to decrease the production of the female sex hormones, oestrogen and progesterone. As a result, the pituitary gland, which controls several glands in the body including the ovaries, overcompensates by producing more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Menopause happens to every woman at one stage or another but symptoms can vary in discomfort and severity.
Some symptoms include:
- hot flushes
- vaginal dryness
- decreased libido
- irritability and depression
- decrease on bone density
Getting help with symptoms: Traditionally, it was common for doctors to prescribe the long-term use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) – an oral oestrogen/progesterone combination – to ease menopause symptoms. However, in early 2000, some studies showed that women who took HRT were at a greater risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and blood clots. Health experts indicate that taking oestrogen and progesterone is fine to assist with the transition to menopause, but only for a short time.
From the age of 65 it is important for women to begin having regular bone density screenings to detect osteoporosis early.
Andropause is not exactly male menopause, since not all men will experience it. However, it does happen to about 20 per cent of men over the age of 60 and 30-50 per cent of men over the age of 80. Andropause is marked by a significant decline in testosterone production. As hormone levels fall away, the pituitary gland, which controls the testes, produces more follicle-stimulating hormone.
Some symptoms include:
- decrease in muscle mass and overall strength
- decrease in bone density (increased risk of osteoporosis)
- low libido and erectile dysfunction
- decreased energy
- increased depression
- cognitive impairment.
Getting help with symptoms: Men experiencing any of these symptoms should have their testosterone levels tested. Testosterone replacement can sometimes be an option, though this does carry associated risks. Testosterone therapy may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, worsen sleep apnoea and cause an overproduction of red blood calls, leading to a corresponding risk of blood clots. Testosterone therapy can also cause existing prostate cancer to develop faster.
Ultimately, maintaining a healthy lifestyle with regular exercise and a balanced diet, along with regular prostate checks and monitoring of your prostate-specific antigen (PSA) and blood cell levels can be the best ways to manage andropause.
It is also important from the age of 70 for men to begin having regular bone density screenings to test for osteoporosis.