Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging
According to the Neuroendocrine Theory of aging, damage or injury to the hypothalamus and decreased hormone receptor sensitivity ultimately leads to hormonal imbalance and that in turn leads to premature aging. Hormones can be thought of catalysts that enable the body to function more optimally and efficiently. Low levels of hormones are associated with increased risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, and others.
Longevity is increased when the neuroendocrine system is functioning properly. See this study.
The neuroendocrine system includes the brain and the endocrine glands. A small walnut sized gland called the hypothalamus is its control center. Hormones, which help regulate the body’s many functions, are produced and secreted in response to other hormones and biochemical messengers. The hypothalamus oversees or controls the chain reactions produced by these hormones and biochemical messengers. The hypothalamus in turn is either “turned on” or” turned off” by some of these very same hormones and chemical messengers.
As we age the hypothalamus begins to malfunction. In addition, receptors on the cells for individual hormones become less responsive to hormones. Excessive levels of cortisol damage the hypothalamus. Cortisol is known as the “stress” hormone. Cortisol is unique in being one of the few hormones that increases with age. Therefore, as we age increasing levels of cortisol cause further hypothalamic damage. Managing stress, therefore, is important to successful aging.
The hypothalamus produces many releasing hormones that trigger the release of other hormones from the pituitary, thyroid and adrenal glands, and ovaries and testes. As hypothalamic damage occurs releasing hormones decline leading to decline in the “downstream” hormones from the other endocrine glands. This decline in hormones raises the risk of disease and negatively impacts quality of life.
Neuroendocrine Theory of Aging: You Can Control It
Great news, though! Hormone levels can be easily replaced through hormone replacement therapy. And, diet can help. There is some evidence that hormone receptor sensitivity can be improved by a number of nutrients found in fruits and vegetables. These interventions enable us to successfully cope or offset the ill effects based on the neuroendocrine theory of aging.
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