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His and Hers Hormones

A guide to male and female hormones

While many people think of hormonal changes as a primarily female issue, men are equally, if differently, affected by hormonal shifts.

Although men and women react to hormones in distinct ways, one thing is true for both: Hormonal balance helps shape overall health and well-being.

Men

1. Three hormones are particularly important for men: 

  • Testosterone improves muscle mass, energy and sexual function.
  • Cortisol regulates stress and blood sugar.
  • Growth hormone maintains muscle and tissue health.

2. A healthy diet and exercise can help keep your hormones balanced.

Testosterone and growth hormones are particularly sensitive to spikes in blood sugar. That’s why a healthy diet can help prevent hormonal imbalances.

Avoid simple carbohydrates and refined sugars, such as white bread, white rice and candy. Instead, stick to complex carbs (such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables) and healthy fats.

Additionally, regularly doing moderate to high-intensity exercise can keep cortisol levels down and manage overall stress.

Fatigue and a lack of energy can be among the first signs of hormonal imbalance.

3. Your hormones are constantly fluctuating.

Your hormones — particularly testosterone levels — change several times a day. Testosterone peaks in the morning and dips in the evening. Because testosterone plays a vital role in the production of red blood cells (which give you energy), dramatic dips in testosterone can leave you with less energy.

Fatigue and a lack of energy can be among the first signs of hormonal imbalance.

4. As you age, testosterone begins to wane.

“Testosterone levels peak in your early 30s and then decline with age,” says Laurence Levine, MD, a urologist at Rush. “In one recent study, almost 40 percent of men over 45 had low testosterone.”

Low testosterone (or “low T”) can cause fatigue, listlessness, depression, diminished muscle mass, low libido and sexual dysfunction. Further, low testosterone puts you at a higher risk for osteoporosis and even dementia.

The good news: Urologists have many treatment options for low T.

Women

1.Three hormones are key for women:

  • Estrogen plays a role in everything from mood to memory to bone growth and cholesterol. Almost every organ and tissue in your body has estrogen receptors.
  • Progesterone balances the potential negative consequences too much estrogen can cause, such as breast cancer and reproductive system cancers.
  • Testosterone helps maintain strong bones and muscles.

2. It’s the fluctuations in hormones that cause problems.

Estrogen and progesterone levels rise and fall with each monthly cycle. These shifts can cause imbalances that alter levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that affects mood. This can lead to mood swings, anxiety, irritability and fatigue.

Big shifts in estrogen (such as during pregnancy or while on birth control pills) can also leave you at risk for stroke. The fluctuations affect substances in your blood that can cause clots, which have the potential to trigger a stroke.

Losing even 5 percent of your body weight can help regulate your cycles, increase fertility and reduce hormonal acne.

3. A high BMI can lead to hormonal symptoms.

Fat tissue has a hormone that naturally converts one type of estrogen into another and one type of testosterone into another. Excess body fat can cause these conversions to become imbalanced.

These imbalances can cause hormonal issues, such as irregular periods, difficulty getting pregnant, acne, complications during pregnancy and increased menopause symptoms.

“Losing even 5 percent of your body weight can help regulate your cycles, increase fertility and reduce hormonal acne,” says Murali Vinta, MD, an OB-GYN at Rush.

4. Your heart attack risk rises as estrogen declines.

Heart attacks in women start to go up about 10 years after menopause. One of the reasons is declining estrogen, which helps blood flow through arteries.

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