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February 20, 2012

Hormone Balance: A Key to Health

Hormone Balance and Woman in a Balancing ExerciseAchieving Hormone Balance

This article from FoxNews nicely reflects our position on hormone balance in women.  Ms. Robson noticed that after her hysterectomy that her entire body was affected by the sudden decline in hormones following such surgery. That’s because there are receptors on/in the all our cells for our hormones.

So even though we think of estrogen and progesterone as sex hormones, and thyroid as the hormone that regulates metabolism, any decline in any hormone has wide-spread effects on the entire body. The brain needs estrogen and progesterone, as does the heart, bones, and other internal organs. Every hormone is a total body hormone. So to ensure optimal function,and therefore optimal health, it is necessary to achieve and maintain hormone balance throughout life.  A small percentage will naturally maintain good levels for most of their lives, but for most of us our hormones decline past critical levels usually be our mid-40’s. So most of us need help to maintain hormone balance.

Hormone Balance and Cholesterol

Our sex hormones – estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone are made from cholesterol, yes cholesterol. There’s evidence to suggest that as our sex hormones decline with age we make more cholesterol as an adaptive response.  In other words, we make more cholesterol in attempt to stimulate more production of declining sex hormones. In fact, replacement of sex hormones alone has been associated with improvements in cholesterol profiles. The Fox article discusses estrogen and HDL, the so-called “good” cholesterol, but progesterone also improves HDL levels.  Both estrogen and progesterone are critical to bone health. Estrogen minimizes bone resorption, while progesterone stimulates bone formation. And, women also need testosterone, which is great for bone health and maintenance of muscle mass and strength.

Hormones and Reference Ranges

Here’s what get’s confusing.  You can have “normal” hormone levels yet be hormone deficient.  Let me explain.  Hormones levels are reported along with a reference range, many times mistakenly called the “normal range”.  The reference range encompasses 95% of the population with 2.5% falling below the range and 2.5% above the range.  Many physicians will only prescribe hormones for that 2.5% that have levels below the reference range. The reference range simply shows you where your levels are compared to the rest of the population. Everybody has an optimal level for them.  Most hormones decline 1% to 3% per year after age 30.  So by age 50 some of us have seen and will feel a 40% decline in hormones even though a level of any given hormone may still fall inside the reference range.

Hormone balance is reached when all hormones are at an optimal level.

Practical Advise

I agree with Ms. Robson’s advise with respect to hormones and cholesterol.  If you have had normal cholesterol levels over the years and all of sudden your cholesterol levels become unhealthy, that’s an indication that your hormones may be low or out of balance.  Declining thyroid,which is very common in women, leads to elevations in the LDL, or “bad” cholesterol. It also contributes to depression, muscle aches, and low energy.

In fact, if you begin to develop a host of symptoms atypical for you once you reach menopause, or even before you reach menopause, there’s a good bet those symptoms are hormonally related. Of course, it’s important to be evaluated and have other possibilities to explain those symptoms excluded. Insist on having a hormonal panel checked. Be your own health advocate as Ms. Robson suggests.

See related articles.

“Sex Drive”

“The 5 B’s and More: Exess Estrogen Symptoms”

“Symptoms of Andropause in Women”

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Dr. Joe Jacko

Dr. Joe is board certified in internal medicine and sports medicine with additional training in hormone replacement therapy and regenerative medicine. He has trained or practiced at leading institutions including the Hughston Clinic, Cooper Clinic, Steadman-Hawkins Clinic of the Carolinas, and Cenegenics. He currently practices in Columbus, Ohio at Grandview Primary Care. Read more about Dr. Joe Jacko

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