A woman’s life is affected by hormones from the moment of birth, but what do we know about these darn hormones and how they affect us as we age? By the time a woman enters perimenopause (the transition period between fertility and permanent infertility), she may have already experienced two decades of hormonal imbalance.
Once menopause (marked as a year after a woman’s last menstrual cycle) occurs, sex hormone levels have decreased significantly, aging women are at increased risk of major diseases.
Rates of heart disease in postmenopausal women gradually climb until they equal the rates typically seen among men. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is the leading killer of American women. Many adverse cardiovascular health changes come from menopause, including elevations in blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total.
Menopause causes many negative cardiovascular health changes, including elevated blood pressure, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides. At the same time, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol levels drop significantly. Elevated homocysteine levels, C-reactive protein, and interleukin-6 (an inflammatory cytokine) are all associated with a low estrogen level.
Hormone deficiencies are associated with bone loss and osteoporosis, beginning as early as the third decade of life. By the time women reach 50, they have a significantly increased risk of an osteoporotic bone fracture.
Estrogen deficiency results in increased production of pro-inflammatory cytokines, which cause increased bone breakdown and inflammation. Combined estrogen and androgen therapy increases bone mineral density (BMD) and increases BMD more than estrogen therapy alone.
Aside from the health disorders associated with menopause, the aging process means declining health, muscle loss, increased body fat, decreased energy, low sex drive, and foggy thinking to many women. Getting older is inevitable, but you can manage how you age, thanks to new medical advances and an all-encompassing healthy lifestyle.
“By the time a woman enters perimenopause (the transition period between fertility and permanent infertility), she may have already experienced two decades of hormonal imbalance.”
By Jorge Kutugata, MD