MedlinePlus defines hormones as “natural chemicals produced in one location, released into the bloodstream, then used by other organs and systems. Hormones control the target organs.” As our bodies age, there are many changes that take place in hormone function. For example, certain target tissues become less sensitive to the hormone that controls them, the amount of hormones produced might change, hormones might be metabolized more slowly, and blood levels of some hormones might decrease or increase. Following are some of the effects of aging on hormones…
Metabolism – Metabolism is partly controlled by hormones that are produced by the thyroid gland. As we age, the thyroid can become nodular (lumpy), which can make our metabolism slow down and our weight increase. For some people, thyroid hormone production can increase with age, causing an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Osteoporosis – The parathyroid produces hormones that affect calcium and phosphate levels, and as we age, those hormones are increased, which can contribute to osteoporosis.
Diabetes – As we age, our cells become less sensitive to the effects of insulin, which causes the normal glucose level to rise 6 to 14 mg/dL (milligrams per deciliter) every 10 years after age 50. That’s why seniors should be screened for diabetes and high blood sugar on a regular basis.
Adrenal Dysfunction – The adrenal gland produces the hormones aldosterone, which regulates fluid and electrolyte levels. The production of aldosterone decreases with age, which can cause light-headedness and orthostatic hypotension.
Perimenopause – Around the age of 35, women begin about a 10-year process called perimenopause, in which they experience an increase in follicle-stimulating hormone, which eventually alerts the ovaries to stop ovulating. Symptoms can include irregular periods, exhaustion, anxiousness, reduced libido, acne, weight gain and a feeling of overwhelm.
Menopause – As women age, they produce less estrogen during menopause, which can result in hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, heart palpitations and vaginal dryness.
Testosterone – As men age, they often experience a reduction in testosterone, leading to low sex drive, erectile dysfunction, depression, fatigue, irritability and reduce muscle mass.