Throughout our lives, our bodies undergo a sequence of amazing transformations. We develop and undergo puberty, and the majority of us also reproduce. However, this is not as simple as it sounds. Behind the scenes, the endocrine system orchestrates these alterations regularly with the help of hormones.
In addition to growth and sexual maturity, this system is responsible for adjusting your sleep to the rhythm of your heartbeat, exerting its impact on every cell in your body. This article is about optimizing your hormone level with aging.
Science of Endocrine System.
Hormones are the body’s “messengers,” for regulating and coordinating processes at every level. But how do they coordinate with all the functions in the body?
The endocrine system functions as a result of the interplay of three factors. This includes glands, hormones, and many cell receptors. In addition to the three endocrine glands in the brain, there are seven other hormone-producing glands throughout the rest of the body.
The pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thymus, adrenal glands, pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, and testes are among the major hormone-secreting glands in the body. Each gland is surrounded by a system of blood vessels that supply it with the nutrients it requires to produce hormones. These hormones are secreted into the bloodstream in extremely minute quantities.
From there, each hormone needs to locate a set of target cells to bring about specific changes. To find its target, it is helped by receptors which are special proteins inside or on the cell’s surface. These receptors are designed to pick up and attach to a certain hormone as it drifts by.
When this happens, that hormone-receptor combination triggers a range of effects that either increase or decrease specific processes inside the cells to change how that cell behaves. And thus, by exposing millions of cells to hormones in extremely regulated quantities, the endocrine system drives large-scale changes in the body.
In other words, a hormone won’t affect a tissue unless it’s a good “match” for that tissue. Think of a hormone as a key, and the specialized cell walls of an organ, as a lock, as the intended receiver. To be effective, a hormone must be compatible with the cellular membrane.
Functions of Hormones.
During Puberty. Hormones also have their most visible and familiar effects during puberty. In males, puberty begins when the testes start to secrete a hormone called testosterone. This causes the gradual development of sexual organs, making facial hair sprout, voice deepen, and height increase.
While in women, estrogen secreted from the ovaries starts adulthood. It helps the body to develop, makes the hips wider, and thickens the womb’s lining, which prepares the body for menstruation or pregnancy.
An enduring misconception about the endocrine system is that they are exclusively male and female hormones.
However, men and women naturally produce estrogen and testosterone in different quantities.
Pregnancy. Ten other hormones, including these two, work together to ensure the healthy development of the fetus, facilitate labor and delivery, and aid in the mother’s ability to nurse her newborn after birth (1) (2) (3). What other changes occur in women’s bodies during this time period? Please have a look at our article for a better understanding.
Metabolism. Hormones entirely govern every metabolic process. Cortisol, thyroid, estrogen, testosterone, growth hormone, and insulin are the most important hormones at play here.
These hormones depend on each other, too. Continuously high levels of the stress hormone cortisol can lead to weight gain and an increase in appetite. Increased refined carbohydrate and sugar consumption leads to insulin resistance and can result in increased fat accumulation. As the thyroid weakens, the body’s progesterone supply decreases, and the cortisol produced by the neurological system depletes the thyroid.
Mood Changes. Periods of hormonal changes are also associated with fluctuations in mood. That’s because they can affect the production of certain chemicals in the brain, like serotonin. When chemical levels change, they can cause changes in mood. But that doesn’t mean hormones have unlimited power over us. They are frequently viewed as the main drivers of our behavior, making us slaves to their effects, especially during puberty.
Types of Hormones.
Thyroid & Parathyroids.
Under the skin at the front of your neck lies a little butterfly-shaped gland called the thyroid. The primary function of the thyroid gland is to regulate metabolic rate, the pace at which food is converted into energy in the body which means it influences digestion, appetite, and general energy level. The two principal thyroid hormones are T3 and T4, but others also include calcitonin, which plays a role in the body’s homeostasis. TSH, secreted by the pituitary gland and regulated by a feedback loop, is responsible for this regulation.
The parathyroid glands, a group of four, are located in the neck, just above the thyroid gland. It influences calcium, phosphate, and vitamin D levels.
Hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a tiny brain area connected to the pituitary gland through the pituitary stalk. It releases several hormones that regulate the pituitary gland, including the following dopamine, oxytocin, gonadotropin-releasing hormone, and growth hormone-releasing hormone.
Pineal. The pineal gland is a small gland under the base of the brain. It produces the hormone melatonin, which aids in regulating the sleep-wake cycle.
Pituitary. A small yet powerful gland that works in synergy with the hypothalamus and communicates with the rest of the nervous system. It regulates hormone levels and monitors the functioning of the other glands. The release of its stimulating hormones can alter hormone synthesis elsewhere in the body.
Gonadotropins (LH and FSH), growth hormone (GH), thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), prolactin, antidiuretic hormone, and oxytocin are the hormones secreted by the pituitary gland.
Additionally, the pituitary gland secretes endorphins which operate on the neurological system to alleviate pain and a sense of happiness.
Both kidneys have adrenal (suprarenal) glands on top. They secrete hormones, including adrenaline, cortisol, aldosterone, DHEA, and testosterone. The adrenal cortex, the outer layer of the adrenal gland, produces cortisol, aldosterone, and sex hormones, whereas adrenaline is produced in the adrenal medulla. This gland control fundamental physiological processes, including the immune, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems and the body’s reaction to stress. Furthermore, it aids your body in performing the following:
- Promoting proper cardiovascular functioning
- Facilitates our response to stress
- Utilizing carbs and lipids effectively
- Helps to distribute fat
- Provides bodily odor and pubic hair
- Supports gastrointestinal health
Pancreas. It is a digestive organ that produces insulin, which regulates sugar levels in the bloodstream. In addition, it produces hormones, including glucagon and somatostatin.
Kidneys. Have found their function other than that to secrete waste products. It has been found to produce erythropoietin (EPO), which increases red blood cell synthesis, makes renin essential for blood pressure management, and produces the active form of vitamin D.
Reproductive Organs. These are the main source of sex hormones in both men and women. In men, the testes produce androgens, such as testosterone. This is responsible for producing secondary male characters in puberty and the production of sperm.
In females, the ovaries release the feminine hormones estrogen and progesterone. Which play a huge role in the development of female characters like breast changes, pubic changes, and while in pregnancy and menopause.
Gut. It might sound new, but many hormones in the digestive tract are being studied and understood to affect metabolism and hunger. Included are glucagon-like peptide 1 (GLP-1), the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin, and somatostatin.
Adipose tissue is commonly known as body fat. Body fat is made of adipose tissue. It may be found everywhere, from under the skin to the space between your muscles, your bone marrow, and even your breast tissue. It has been found to produce leptin, estrogen, and angiotensin to be known of.
The functions and locations of a few major hormones have been summarized below in the table.
| ||adrenal||Maintains blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and muscular strength; controls salt and water balance and acts anti-inflammatory.|
| ||adrenal||Controls salt, water balance, and blood pressure|
| ||adrenal||contributes to how the body reacts to stress|
| ||adrenal||produces body odor and growth of body hair during puberty|
| ||ovaries||sperm production, menstrual cycle regulation, pregnancy maintenance, and female sex development|
| ||pituitary||regulates the ovum and sperm count|
| ||pancreas||bring down your blood sugar levels|
| ||pancreas||reduce your blood glucose levels|
| ||pituitary||influences ovulation, which regulates estrogen and testosterone levels.|
| ||pineal||controls sleep-wake cycles|
| ||pituitary||aids in breastfeeding, labor, and mother-baby bonding|
| ||parathyroid||maintains calcium levels in bones and blood|
| ||ovary||helps prepare the body for pregnancy when an egg is fertilized|
| ||pituitary||promotes breast-milk production|
| ||ovary, testes, adrenal||aids in the development of masculine sex characteristics and the stimulation of sex drive in both sexes.|
| ||thyroid||helps control the rate of metabolism and energy levels|
Hormones & Aging.
In certain instances, this regularity can be disrupted by disease, aging, stress, and even diet can alter the number of hormones that cells secrete or, by managing, how cells respond.
Some target tissues become less receptive to the hormone that controls them. The number of hormones produced may also fluctuate.
Other hormone levels in the blood rise, some fall, and some remain steady while metabolizing slowly.
Effect of Aging on Men.
Men endure a slow and steady decline in hormone levels as they age, though the change is not as apparent as it is in women.
Andropause, the major fall in testosterone production, affects roughly 20% of men over age 60 and 30%-50% of men over age 80. This cannot be referred to as “male menopause” because it does not affect all men but surely affects them.
at the age of 60, here is when andropause sets in men, and changes like the decline in muscle mass, strength, bone mass, and core body fat are the most visible indicators of testosterone deficiency.
Among the possible signs are the following:
- Reduced muscle mass and overall strength
- Decrease in bone mineral density and an associated increase in osteoporosis risk
- Low libido and erectile dysfunction.
- Decreased energy and depression
- Cognitive impairment
Ask your primary care doctor or geriatrician to examine your testosterone levels if you have these symptoms.
After males reach age 30, testosterone levels might fall by as much as 0.4%–2% every year.
Changes that hormone decline can bring in can be summarized below.
|Age 20||Age 30||Age 40||Age 50|
| || || || |
Effect of Aging on Women.
Menopause is the most typical result of hormone changes that occur naturally with aging. When a woman reaches menopause, her ovaries gradually produce less estrogen and progesterone, prompting the pituitary gland to adjust by increasing levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
Menopause is a natural part of a woman’s life, but the symptoms can be unpleasant or risky. Possible symptoms might be:
- Bone fractures are more likely to occur in people with osteoporosis.
- Hot flashes
- Low sexual drive
- Vaginal dryness and atrophy result in painful intercourse.
By the time most women reach their 50s, estrogen levels have dropped to their lowest point, and menopause has set in. Also, estrogen is an anti-inflammatory, and its decline can cause inflammation in the body.
The effect of hormonal changes with aging on women can be summarized as,
|Age 20||Age 30||Age 40||Age 50|
| || || || |
Effects of Aging on Both Genders.
Like any other factor, aging has also been found to affect directly or indirectly hormonal levels in the body in both genders. The following changes can be seen as per different pieces of research.
Thyroid. An aging body is more vulnerable to problems with the thyroid gland, which produces hormones that regulate metabolism and other vital functions. Thyroid overactivity or hyperthyroidism can occur. Low thyroid function or hypothyroid can cause fatigue, depression, forgetfulness, weight gain, high cholesterol, constipation, dry skin, hair loss, and cold hands and feet.
Women over the age of 65 are more likely to have hypothyroidism than males. However, even older men still have a considerable prevalence. Treatments for hypo or hyperthyroidism, if necessary, are often well tolerated.
Melatonin. One reason older individuals have trouble sleeping is that their bodies create less melatonin as they become older. Some studies have found that levels of melatonin, sometimes known as the “sleep hormone,” are highest between the ages of 2 and 5 years old. However, melatonin levels continue to fall progressively throughout the lifespan, and this reduction may be associated with sleep difficulties later in life. At approximately age 40 is when melatonin levels begin to decline, according to Dutch research. Taking melatonin supplements might help you fall asleep more quickly and have a more peaceful night’s sleep.
Insulin. Despite the fact that insulin levels do not typically fall with age, your cells may become less responsive to its signals as you age. Insulin resistance raises the risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and fatty liver disease, among other conditions. Evidence suggests that insulin resistance increases with aging. The most current CDC data shows that over 27% of adults aged 65 and up have diabetes.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). DHEA is frequently referred to as the “mother hormone” due to its ability to be transformed into either testosterone or estrogen. its production begins to decline at about age 30, eventually falling to a small proportion of what it was in youth. Numerous studies have connected low levels of DHEA to age-related conditions such as diabetes, immunological dysfunction, heart disease, and others. (1)(2)
Growth Hormone. Growth hormone production declines by up to 14% every decade beyond the age of 30 in both women and men.
Cortisol. A Journal of Gerontology research evaluated cortisol levels in 1,800 people over 31 years. The researchers found that cortisol levels decline in your 20s and 30s, stay steady in your 40s and 50s, then increase beyond 60. The decline in cortisol is partially attributed to the lessened fight-or-flight response young people have to external stresses, as well as the decline in self-perceived stress and the development of coping abilities throughout these years.
Overall, the table can summarize better,
|Hormones that decrease||Hormones that remain unchanged||Hormones that increase||In women||In men|
| || || || || |
Although these hormonal shifts are natural consequences of becoming older and may contribute to the onset of some diseases, you may take steps now to ensure your good health in later years.
Taking care of your hormonal health may need a comprehensive approach that includes eating well, working out frequently, and incorporating other health-promoting practices like meditation and getting adequate sleep. What scientific methods can help with hormonal imbalance and, if not, only regulate hormone changes with aging? Read a specialized article with some expert opinions.