Hormone Therapy Still Raises Concerns about the Heart
You’re getting older. As you age, your body is letting you know you are not as young as you were 20 years ago. You do not have that same kind of youthful energy; you find yourself tiring more easily and more often; you don’t seem to be as alert as you used to be, and your love life has faded somewhat. Could it be that you are suffering from low levels of sex hormones?
A decline in sex hormone production is normal with age. In fact, imbalances in hormone levels are common in people over the age of 50. What you do about it can make all the difference in the world. But that does not mean hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is necessarily the right way to go. Decades after we began prescribing HRT en mass, there are genuine concerns that the therapy could be harmful to the heart, among other things.
Women and Menopause
According to Harvard Health Letters, some 40% of women in the U.S. were on HRT to help protect against heart disease. But research at the turn of the 21st century changed things. The researchers behind the Women’s Health Initiative discovered that not only did HRT not help prevent heart disease, it actually increased a woman’s risk of developing it.
The thinking today is that only women suffering from the most severe menopausal symptoms should be prescribed HRT – and only temporarily. A research study I cited in a previous blog post also suggests that starting HRT as early as possible during menopause might actually have some significant benefits in reducing the risk of heart disease. The jury is still out on that research.
Men with Low Testosterone
Men tend to peak in terms of their testosterone levels sometime in the late 20s or early 30s. From there, a gradual decline is normal. By the time a man reaches 50, lower levels of testosterone may begin affecting everything from sex drive to physical energy.
Unfortunately, we have been using testosterone therapy for men indiscriminately for far too long. What was intended to treat men suffering from genuine conditions affecting the brain, testicles, or pituitary gland has become a therapy doctors are recommending only to help them regain their physical stamina and sex drive. The problem is that HRT increases a man’s risk of heart disease and stroke.
There Are Better Ways
HRT is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself. It does have an appropriate place in helping both women and men suffering from certain chronic conditions related to aging. But there are better ways to handle the natural effects of aging without going the HRT route. Among them are diet and exercise.
Just as an example, did you know that weight gain can be a key factor in reducing certain levels of hormones? Men are especially prone to lower testosterone for every pound they put on. Simply by maintaining a healthy weight and getting regular exercise, men and women can both achieve better hormonal balance naturally.
Diet can also be helpful as well. There are certain kinds of foods that actually encourage the body to maintain a healthy hormone balance. Other types of foods, such as flaxseed, for example, can help women manage menopausal symptoms instead of taking HRT.
The most important thing to remember here is that HRT should be approached with caution. Patients should talk it over with their doctors thoroughly before beginning a hormone replacement regimen of any kind. And if there are better, less invasive means of restoring a healthy hormone balance, they should be tried first.