Aging is a natural process that causes a general decline in your body’s capabilities to maintain and repair itself. Your hormones and endocrine system also change with age, causing many illnesses as you get older. Aging alters hormone secretions (by your endocrine glands) making you prone to insomnia, reduced metabolic rate, accumulation of body fat, fractures, diabetes, and memory changes. Knowledge of the role of hormones in aging will help you understand your body better and maintain better health as you age. 

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PITUITARY AND GROWTH  

The Pituitary produces the Growth Hormone (somatotropin) which makes you grow big and strong (by building your muscles and bones). As you age, the production of growth hormone decreases, leading to: 

  • Reduced protein synthesis. 
  • Decreased muscle mass and metabolic rate. 
  • Increased deposition of fat (particularly abdominal fat called ‘middle-age spread’). 
  • Loss of bone mass and density (increasing your risk of osteoporosis and fractures). 
  • A general decrease in immunity and higher risks of infections. 

* Low somatotropin levels are also seen in people with high body fat and people who lead a sedentary lifestyle. 

PINEAL GLAND AND SLEEP DISTURBANCES 

The pineal gland (in the center of your brain) produces melatonin which regulates your internal body clock (during the day melatonin secretion is stopped, but as the sun sets and it gets dark, melatonin secretion increases, preparing your body for sleep). 

As you grow older, the pineal gland undergoes calcification, and melatonin levels go down: 60-year-olds have 80% less melatonin than teenagers. Some drugs (commonly prescribed to older people), such as beta-blockers (for high blood pressure) and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, can also reduce melatonin levels. 

  • Decreased melatonin is linked to sleep disturbances and, in some people, may ultimately lead to insomnia.  
  • Since sleep is essential for your brain health, sleep disturbances can accelerate age-related changes in the brain. 

THYROID AND METABOLISM 

The thyroid gland plays an important role in controlling your metabolism, body temperature, moods and blood calcium levels. The decrease in thyroid hormones leads to: 

  • Decreased basal metabolic rate. 
  • Improper digestion. 
  • Fat accumulation in your body. 
  • Low core temperature. 
  • Decreased bone strength and calcium concentration.  
  • Anxiety and mood swings. 

*Many drugs used to treat long-term conditions in older people (for example, lithium and glucocorticoids) can also reduce thyroid function. 

PARATHYROID AND CALCIUM  

The parathyroid glands (located behind your thyroid) secrete parathyroid hormone (PTH) when blood calcium levels fall (it releases calcium from bones).  

Several studies have shown that as you grow older, the levels of PTH increase. This is one of the causes of:  

  • reduced bone density (commonly seen in middle and old age) and osteoporosis. 
  • age-related cognitive decline and dementia. 

PANCREAS AND DIABETES  

The pancreas (islets of Langerhans) regulates blood glucose levels by secreting insulin in response to increased blood glucose – for example, after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Insulin binds to receptors present in cells, leading to the uptake of glucose from the blood (which is either used to release energy or stored as glycogen). 

  • Aging cells become less sensitive to insulin leading to high blood glucose concentrations (which explains the higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes with age). 

ADRENALS AND STRESS  

The adrenals are located above your kidneys and produce many hormones like adrenaline, aldosterone, and cortisol. 

  • Adrenaline is the ‘fight or flight’ hormone that prepares your body for stressful situations. There is evidence that the older you get, the lesser adrenaline is released in response to stress.  
  • Aldosterone regulates levels of sodium and potassium and plays a key role in water balance and blood pressure control. Research shows that it decreases with age. This can cause lightheadedness and a drop in blood pressure with sudden position changes (orthostatic hypotension).  
  • Cortisol release is triggered by stressors (such as physical injury or starvation). It is a natural anti-inflammatory and has a vital role in protein and fat breakdown. There’s a link between increased cortisol levels (associated with aging), reduced bone density and increased risk of fractures. It’s also associated with decreased cognitive function, memory loss, and sleep disorders.
     

Are you always thirsty or tired? 

Are you sad, constipated, or bloated all the time?  

An endocrinologist can help you get the answers and treatment you need. Treatment could be as simple as medication. Don’t suffer silently or delay seeking help. Call us today at 718-DORAL-55.