September is Healthy Aging Month
Written by Carol Petersen, RPh, CNP – Women’s International Pharmacy
In The Singularity is Near, Ray Kurzweil and Dr. Terry Grossman write that if we manage to keep ourselves going for the next 20 years, there is reason to believe that we will have learned enough about human physiology that the potential for living indefinitely could become a reality.
While the thought of living indefinitely may not appeal to everyone, successful aging—that is, living vitally without disease such that we are able to use our bodies and our minds to their full potential throughout our entire lives—seems to be a common human desire.
This interest in healthy, successful aging has spawned several professional medical groups that are actively addressing the issues, including the American Academy for Anti-Aging Medicine (A4M), the Age Management Medicine Group (AMMG), the American College for the Advancement of Medicine (ACAM) and the International College of Integrative Medicine (ICIM).
Although it is not their primary focus, the practitioners in these groups support the belief that adequate and balanced levels of hormones are one of the foundations of successful aging.
Here are some of the health issues they are up against in their quest for understanding how we age, and what might be explored to help improve the aging process:
- The cardiovascular system becomes compromised as the heart struggles to pump blood efficiently and arterial walls are weakened. High blood pressure, arrhythmias, and heart failure symptoms may ensue. However, testosterone is one of the most heart-healthy hormones, and growth hormone supplementation has proven to be of great benefit to a failing heart. Dr. Broda Barnes reported that, with adequate thyroid supplementation, his patients did not get heart attacks.
- Bones, joints, and muscles continually weaken, and pain is often a consequence when these tissues become compromised. Sarcopenia, the medical term for loss of muscle mass, also contributes to an overall frailty and weakness. These symptoms are all correlated with low growth hormone, low testosterone, low DHEA, low estrogens, low progesterone, low thyroid, and low vitamin D. The stress hormone cortisol may be contributing to tissue damage as well if it remains high over extended periods of time.
- The digestive system becomes compromised with low stomach acid, and a tendency toward constipation increases with age. If there is not enough thyroid activity in the body, the entire digestive tract slows and stagnates.
- Weight gain, particularly around the middle, is very common in people as they age. While proper utilization of insulin and glucose are critical, low thyroid hormones are also typically part of pre-diabetic and diabetic dysfunction. Hormones such as testosterone and progesterone help to stabilize blood sugar levels. Excess cortisol (the stress hormone) encourages fat deposits.
- Urinary and bladder issues become a major factor in a deteriorating quality of life. Estrogens, particularly estriol, are needed to keep the urinary tract and bladder tissue healthy. Testosterone is needed to maintain the strength and integrity of the tissues.
- “I am worried about losing my mind” is a very common concern for people as they age. All of the sex and adrenal hormones are “neuro” steroids, which means that they actually concentrate and function in the brain. Thyroid hormones contribute to keeping memory sharp.
- Losing eyesight and hearing are also debilitating problems associated with aging. The upper eyelids droop when growth hormone is deficient. Tears need estrogen, testosterone and DHEA for an adequate composition of the fatty component. Aldosterone has demonstrated some effectiveness in treating age-related deafness.
- The teeth may become more brittle and the gums retract. Associated with osteoporosis, these symptoms are linked to deficiencies of vitamin D, the estrogens, testosterone, DHEA and growth hormone.
- The skin becomes increasingly wrinkled, thin, and prone to bruising. Estrogens maintain the moisture and structure of the skin. Testosterone and growth hormone are needed to retain skin thickness and structure.
- For many people, sexuality has just about disappeared. With low testosterone and low estrogens, many men and women may not be able to function sexually, and they may not even care because those hormones also control sexual interest (the libido).
This litany of ailments sure paints a dismal picture of what lies ahead. However, this is an exciting time for medicine, and the professional focus on successful, healthy aging shows great promise. After all, what practitioner does not take great joy in seeing patients continually improve?
Our goal is to plant a seed for you—right now, during Healthy Aging month, no matter what age you are—to start exploring the knowledge and tools readily available to better prepare yourself for the aging process.
You can be tested and evaluated clinically to determine which hormones may be deficient and which may be excessive. You can choose to make important lifestyle changes so the basic needs of good food, as well as clean air and water are met. You can keep your body running smoothly by physical activity, healthy play and exercise. And, with the help of practitioners attuned to healthy aging, you can choose to replenish those hormones that decline with age and take steps to moderate the ones that tend toward excess.
- “Aging: What to expect as you get older” published by the Mayo Clinic at https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/aging/HA00040 as of August 2, 2012.
- The Hormone Handbook by Thierry Hertoghe, MD; International Medical Books, 2006.
- Solved: The Riddle of Heart Attacks by Broda O. Barnes, PhD, and Charlotte W. Barnes, AM; Robinson Press, Inc.; Fort Collins, CO; 1992.
- Aldosterone Provides New Treatment for Age-Related Hearing Loss by Barbara Minton, Natural Health Editor at NaturalNews.com; April 22, 2009.