Hormonal Replacement Therapy: What New Science Tells Us

You’ve heard of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), typically testosterone for men and a combination of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone for women. Maybe you always thought it was for, well, older people. Still, you’ve noticed a decrement in your energy levels and performance as the birthdays have passed and you can’t help but wonder, “Would HRT help me? Could it restore some of the drive and vigor I’ve lost with age? Am I a candidate for this type of therapy?”

Good questions. Science is beginning to show us that you do not have to accept lower energy levels or reduced physical performance. And for men, there is also decades of data showing a correlation between low testosterone levels and an increased risk of heart disease and many forms of cancer. Clearly, beyond increased energy, increased fat metabolism, and a healthier libido, HRT should be considered for a wide variety of health benefits. Here are a few things to keep in mind when speaking with your physician, or “anti-aging” doctor about HRT.

 

Women

HRT originally began as a way to reduce the symptoms associated with menopause in women––physicians would prescribe HRT to help replace the estrogen lost. 

The signs women may benefit from HRT include:

– Loss of muscle strength;

– Difficulty sleeping;

– Reduction in sexual desire;

– Low energy or early fatigue during exercise;

– Weight gain;

Thinning hair.

 

Problem is, these symptoms also describe the physiological changes associated with aging. So, when patients experiencing these symptoms approach their physicians, explaining that they just can’t physically do what they previously could do, they are often told that these changes are expected and are simply part of the process of getting older.

While that may be, it begs the question: Does it have to be that way? And if these issues reflect substances that have been lost, doesn’t it make sense to at least look at replacing them?

Science tells us it is. With an experienced HRT doctor – one who assesses current hormone levels and symptoms – and carefully prescribes the right dosages of hormones, studies show women can benefit from:

– Enhancement of bone tissue and reduced risk of osteoporosis;

– Improved sleep;

– Reduced risks of dementia;

– Minimized vaginal dryness;

– Reduced risk of heart disease (in some women);

– Relief from hot flashes and night sweats during menopause;

– Increased or slowed reduction in muscle mass;

– Increased energy levels;

– Improved quality of hair and skin.

 

Interestingly, some of the most dramatic changes have been found when an HRT physician prescribes a small amount of testosterone along with estrogen/progesterone. In these cases, we can see substantial improvements in libido and energy levels. Remember, women do have small amounts of testosterone naturally, and when that stops both physical and psychological changes can occur. Many progressive HRT physicians know testosterone is important to replace as well.

 

Men

You’ve heard the commercials: Do you have “Low T”? Truth be told, it’s an important question. Testosterone drives so many processes in men’s health that the decrement associated with aging can be substantial – enough to make a man wonder what happened to his body.

After age 30, the body’s testosterone levels begin to decline. Studies have shown that 1 in 4 men over 30 has low testosterone levels. Symptoms include:

– Weight gain;

– Mood swings or depression;

– Reduction in sexual desire;

– Trouble getting and maintaining an erection;

– Loss of muscle mass and strength.

Again, these can be attributed to aging, but the point is that with modern medicine you have a choice whether or not you want to accept these changes as they are, or do something about them. 

HRT in men is nothing more than a process of replacing the key hormone responsible for muscle mass, energy levels, and sexual health. Options are typically to administer the prescribed bio-identical testosterone (like your body produces) via a cream, pill, or injection. A qualified and educated HRT physician will be careful to find the right dosage in order to minimize side effects and risks.

 

Benefits of HRT in men include:

– Ability to build and maintain muscle mass.

– Increased sexual desire and improved erections;

– Restoration of energy levels for physical activity;

– Reduction in body fat, particularly around the midsection;

– Higher motivation and concentration;

HRT does come with some risks in some individuals with certain pre-existing conditions. These risks often are related to the type of hormone therapy, the dose, how long the medication is taken, and how closely the patient is monitored. For best results, hormone therapy should be tailored to each person and reevaluated regularly to be sure the benefits still outweigh any risks. 

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About the Author: Bob LeFavi

Bob LeFavi, PhD, is a professor of sports medicine and Dean of the Beaufort Campus at the University of South Carolina, Beaufort. He has been department head of health sciences and sports medicine at Armstrong State University and Georgia Southern University, Savannah, GA. Bob won the bantamweight class at the IFBB NorthAmerican Bodybuilding Championship and was runner-up at both the USA and National Championships. He also competed in the CrossFit Games as a Master’s athlete and has written over 750 articles in the popular press on training, diet, and fitness.

Disclaimer: This content is for informational purposes only and is not meant as medical advice, nor is it to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Please consult your physician before starting or changing your diet or exercise program. Any use of this information is at the sole discretion and responsibility of the user.