January 12, 2011
by Daniel S. Stein, M.D., F.A.C.O.G.
The days when women had no choice but to accept the deterioration in quality of life that usually begins in the perimenopausal years are over. The latest scientific advancements in the field of women’s health have given rise to an unprecedented understanding of the physiological changes that underlie the aging process. These insights have allowed researchers to more accurately study conditions that often affect the lives of aging women, such as uncontrollable weight gain, depression, fatigue, osteoporosis, loss of libido and poor sleep quality.
Through intensive research, scientists have firmly established the role of declining hormone levels as the unifying framework behind the age and stress-related loss of youthful feminine vibrance that is familiar to many women. These scientific breakthroughs have paved the way for the development of innovative new natural products to help women safely feel, perform and look their best, at any age.
The Broad Influence of Hormones
Sex hormones and their precursors, known as prohormones, play a pivotal role in nearly every major function in the body. Estrogen is critical for proper cognitive function, bone health, mood stability, cardiovascular health, skin health and much more. Progesterone orchestrates aspects of the immune system, mediates restful sleep and combats anxiety. Testosterone, commonly misunderstood as a male hormone with little relevance to women’s health, is actually quite important for females. In fact, recent evidence has shown administering testosterone to aging women improves their functional capacity, insulin sensitivity and muscle strength. Significantly, another recent study found women with lower testosterone levels were more likely to suffer a cardiovascular event, or to die from any cause, than their counterparts with higher levels of testosterone.
Prohormones: Multifaceted Molecules for Promoting Health
The prohormones, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and pregnenolone, not only serve as essential intermediates in the synthesis of the hormones estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, but also exert a variety of physiological effects themselves.
Pregnenolone and DHEA are often referred to as neurosteroids, since they are found in high concentrations in the brain, where they are strongly implicated in learning and memory. Moreover, low pregnenolone levels have been associated with social phobia and anxiety, suggesting it acts as a mood stabilizing agent.
DHEA supplementation in aging men and women helps to maintain youthful levels of the hormones estrogen and testosterone via metabolic conversion into these moieties. Supplementation with DHEA has been shown to increase muscle strength and lean body mass, activate immune function and improve overall quality of life.