Hormone Myth Busting
By David Martin, RN, CEO and President, VeinInnovations
Today, and for the next few months, Live Healthy Atlanta focuses on actions and technology to help us preserve and improve our health now, and as we age.
Attention men and women: There are many fallacies about the “change of life.” Today we’re going to dispel a couple of big myths in hopes of helping us survive, and thrive, during this inevitable right of passage.
Fallacy # 1 – The “Change of Life” is a woman-only issue.
When the words “change of life,” are uttered, many of us imagine a “dewy” middle-aged woman fanning herself while those around her roll their eyes.
To represent the sexes equally, we could also imagine the 50-something male, not with the red sports car or a trophy girlfriend, but instead with a bulging gut, a glass of scotch in hand, and a blank stare.
A man’s slowly declining levels of testosterone – beginning at age 25 men start losing 1 to 2% of testosterone production a year – can have far-reaching effects:
• Sexual problems
Paul Cox, an Atlanta physician specializing in anti-aging medicine and bio identical hormone replacement for men and women, says, “the biggest problem facing men in their 40s, 50s, and 60s, is the slow leak of testosterone levels, causing many men to slip into just not giving a damn about a lot of things.”
“This is not like female menopause, where there is a signal that it has stopped because there is no longer a menstrual period. Men losing testosterone is a steady drip, like a leak in a swimming pool you never refill. Over time, you empty out all your stores, and there’s often a loss of lean muscle mass, and an increase in depression, and forgetfulness. This becomes a downward cycle, as the less lean muscle mass a person has, the faster he or she gains weight, which often leads to more depression,” says Cox, who is a double-certified MD (Anti-Aging and Family Medicine) and also holds an MS in exercise physiology.
Then there is the problem with men self-medicating, losing sleep, and losing sexual function. Many men self-medicate with alcohol, which is actually a depressant, exacerbating the core problems with side effects including weight gain, elevated blood sugar, and, ironically, sexual dysfunction and problems achieving a deep, restful sleep.
This is a serious problem. Eighty percent of suicides in the U.S. are men. The suicide rate among older men is three times higher than it is for younger men. For men over 65, the rate is seven times higher.
“Most of my physician referrals come from psychiatrists and neurologists, as men are seeing them because of depression and memory issues. Psychiatrists and neurologists know what a reduction in testosterone does to emotional well-being and brain function. These specialists want their patients to be tested for low testosterone before trying anti-depressants or other prescription therapies,” said Dr. Cox.
Fallacy # 2 Hormone Therapy is Dangerous
The reason more general physicians don’t think of recommending hormone therapies is that there is a lot of misinformation about the safety and effectiveness of hormone therapies.
“Testosterone therapy got a bad rap a few years ago when there was a lot of misinformation with regard to testosterone being dangerous and possibly being linked to an increase in prostate cancer,” says Dr. Cox.
“There have been poorly designed studies, just as there were with women’s hormone studies, indicating that it might be dangerous. As a result, lot of people are not doing testosterone optimization correctly. There is a big difference between what is considered a normal level of hormones, which in America, is gauged for where people are often actually fat and sick, and optimized, which is the level at which issues are alleviated and people literally come back to life again,” Cox said.
“To optimize testosterone, I need patients to come in for labs first thing in the morning, or values are meaningless. When the labs come back we sit down with the patient and talk with them – based on labs and complaints – to see if they are a candidate for optimizing testosterone. If we can optimize testosterone, we will see a patient become happier and healthier.”
Cox says he has literally seen men “come back to life,” saying they really didn’t know how bad they felt until they felt better.
“Suddenly they say, ‘I am interested in my life again.’ Many of these men come in saying they feel like half a man; and, well, they are, because they are trying to live on half the amount of testosterone they had when they were younger. When they feel better, they make changes such as losing weight, or changing careers, because with the low level of testosterone, they didn’t care enough to do it before.”
Post-treatment, many men find that the same vibrancy they now have for life also translates back into their marriages.
“If you don’t feel the same way about yourself or each other, and you are in your 40s, 50s, or 60s, it may well be that one or both of you have hormonal issues. It makes sense to try and fix that before you go through the trauma of an affair or a divorce,” Cox added.
Perhaps one of the healthiest gifts a couple can give each other this Valentine’s Day is a check of their hormones.
Paul E. Cox, MD, MS
Hormones May Help Younger Women With Menopause Symptoms
Hear the VeinInnovations-sponsored Vital Edge segment featuring Dr. Cox talking about hormones here https://soundcloud.com/dana-barrett-show/dana-barrett-show-sc-020316
This new segment is on the Dana Barrett Show Wednesdays from 9 a.m. – 10 a.m.; tune in to biz1190 each Wednesday morning to learn how to gain, and keep, your vital edge in business and at home, with the latest innovations in health, wellness, and esthetics.