“It’s probably just hormones.” This is the reaction of many people to those who are being overly emotional. The assumption is partly true: hormones do indeed impact our emotions, but they also do much more. Many health changes as we age are explained by hormone changes, and contrary to common belief, men can also face hormone changes as they age which impacts their health, too. In this blog post, we take a look at how hormones change as you age and how this impacts your health.
Before discuss the consequences of hormones, it is potent to give a clear definition of what hormones actually are. Hormones are chemical messengers produced by endocrine glands in our body. Different hormones have different target cells; when they reach the target area, they instruct it to perform a certain task. Whilst hormones are commonly discussed regarding reproduction, they are vital for many functions in our body like blood pressure regulation.
Hormones in Women
Types of hormones
For women, hormones play a vital role in reproduction through the menstrual cycle. The two main hormones involved in this process are estrogen and progesterone, and they are the hormones that change the most through aging.
From women who have started or are currently going through puberty to those nearing menopause, the levels of these two hormones in the bloodstream depend on which point you are at in your menstrual cycle. For example, higher levels of progesterone are common after ovulation since the hormone prepares the endometrium for implantation of a fertilized egg. Of course, if the egg is not fertilized, the endometrium sheds and women have their menstrual period. In terms of the impact on your body, progesterone is mainly involved in preparing your body for and maintaining pregnancy.
Estrogen also plays a crucial role in the menstrual cycle, as well as being involved in bone development, heart, and brain health. During the beginning of your cycle, estrogen is involved in thickening the lining of the uterus (endometrium), and a peak level in estrogen is needed to stimulate ovulation.
Menopause is when a woman stops having her period for 12 consecutive months and is unable to have a natural pregnancy. However, symptoms of menopause are often felt four years before the last period called perimenopause.
During perimenopause, estrogen levels fluctuate. This is because the ovaries try to keep the same levels of estrogen as before perimenopause, however, struggle to do so. As a result, they sometimes produce exceptionally higher or lower estrogen, which impacts emotions. High levels of estrogen can cause bloating and heavy bleeding. However, during menopause, high levels are not the problem. Ultimately, estrogen levels significantly decrease, which can cause hot flashes. These low levels can also impact heart health by increasing cholesterol levels. After the menstrual cycle stops and menopause begins, progesterone stops being produced which can result in heavier and irregular bleeding.
Hormones in Men
Andropause is the name given to changes in hormone levels due to aging in men. Testosterone, which is responsible for physical energy and muscle maintenance, is the main hormone involved. Decreasing levels of testosterone often result in low energy, depression, decreased motivation, and insomnia.
Hormones and Your Brain Health
For women, estrogen is suggested to have some benefits for the cognitive function by acting as a neuro-protector. In particular, it is said to be beneficial for memory formation in the hippocampus and frontal lobe of the brain. In fact, for some women going through menopause, estrogen hormone therapy is used to protect the brain against age-related decline, and prevent the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s.
For men, some studies support the hypothesis that brain function declines as testosterone levels decrease during aging. However, there is no linear correlation and the suggestion is greatly debated.
How can MindMate help?
As you age, it becomes even more important to exercise and eat healthy to counteract the consequences of hormone changes. The MindMate app can help you maintain heart health and brain health with free brain and memory games for seniors, tasty recipes, and bespoke exercise routines specifically made for seniors. You can use the app to support hormone therapy you may be getting since our games are designed as memory trainers which can help during the early stages of Alzheimer’s or dementia.