Hormones over your Lifespan
Several hormones decline from middle age onwards. This is a natural physiological process. To keep in step with these hormones changes, this is a good time to review your lifestyle choices.
Hormone changes with age
In both men and women there is a gradual decrease in growth hormone (GH). GH is an anabolic (tissue building) hormone and important for bone health and maintaining a favourable body composition: a good level of muscle mass relative to fat. GH is one of the key hormones driving positive adaptive changes to exercise.
In men there is a slight decline in testosterone from the age of 50 onwards. Testosterone, like GH is an anabolic hormone. In women, the graduation to menopause sees the most dramatic decline in hormone production. Up until menopause the ovaries produce the sex steroid hormones oestradiol (most active form of oestrogen) and progesterone. These play an important role in many areas of health, not limited to reproduction. Oestradiol is queen when it comes to bone and soft tissues like muscles, ligaments and tendons. Cardiovascular health is supported by this dynamic duo of oestradiol and progesterone. The same applies to the neurological system, including cognition and mood. From menopause onwards, the ovaries retire in their production of oestradiol and progesterone. This change in the hormone milieu has an impact in terms of quality of life and long-term health.
How to meet the challenge of hormone changes
There are positive steps in terms of lifestyle choices you can take to mitigate the effects of declining hormones.
Exercise remains a cornerstone for hormone and overall physical and mental health. The type of exercise becomes particularly important to mitigate the decline in hormones with age. Strength training will help offset the decline in the anabolic hormones. Several studies show the positive effects of strength training on body composition alongside bone and metabolic health in both men and women. For women navigating perimenopause and menopause, exercise has been shown to help reduce symptoms associated with changing female hormones like hot flushes.
As ever, nutrition including all the food groups and micronutrients is important for hormone health. Protein intake in particularly is important to help resist the tendency to lose muscle mass with declining anabolic hormones. Don’t forget vitamin D, which is actually a steroid hormone that works in synergy with sex steroid hormones. Vitamin D is important for bone, muscle and immune function. Vitamin D is an unusual vitamin in that the main source is not through the diet, rather the action of sunlight on the skin. As sunlight is often in short supply in many countries, supplementation is advisable.
You will need more recovery if you are a masters athlete/exerciser. It is when you are resting, especially when asleep that you get fitter. This courtesy of our hormones driving the positive adaptive responses to exercise. The two main stimuli for GH release are exercise and sleep. So making sure you get enough of both these in combination will make the most of your hormones to maintain your health and fitness throughout life.
Next steps for your hormone health
For more insights about the changes in hormones that occur over our lifespan and top tips on practical strategies to maintain health and performance, see my book “Hormones, health and Human Potential”. I also offer presentations and virtual health advisory appointments on all aspects of hormone health to guide individuals of all ages to reach their personal full potential.
Keay N. Hormones, Health and Human Potential. A guide to understanding your hormones to optimise your health and performance. Available on Amazon
Sequoia books 2022. ISBN: 9781914110207 Ship overseas