The endocrine system describes the network of various hormones that help the human body function on a daily basis. This network, which is made up of a variety of glands and other organs, produces many different types of hormones and attempts to maintain a delicate balance in hormonal levels. Whether hormone levels are lower or higher than usual, a hormonal imbalance can lead to a wide range of symptoms and health conditions that have the potential to negatively impact whole body health for both women and men. To make matters worse, the endocrine system often becomes less stable for men and women as they age. Discover how the endocrine system and hormone levels influence male and female whole body health, and learn about the best ways to address hormonal imbalances.
What are the Most Common Symptoms of Hormonal Imbalance?
Both women and men alike can begin to experience certain symptoms of hormonal imbalance in varying degrees as they age. Vasomotor symptoms, which include hot flashes and night sweats, are often the symptoms that are most commonly associated with the low levels of estrogen caused by menopause. Yet, men who struggle with the low levels of testosterone caused by andropause can also experience vasomotor symptoms. These sudden feelings of fluctuating body temperatures and heart palpitations are the direct result of the blood vessels constricting, which is just one cardiovascular condition that can be associated with hormonal imbalance.
When experienced at night, especially when in tandem with night sweats, hot flashes can disrupt sleep patterns. Over time, sleep loss can lead to a host of other health issues and conditions if not addressed properly, including mood swings and chronic stress. Extended periods of stress can also cause high levels of the stress hormone known as cortisol, which can also disrupt the sleep-wake cycle. As is often the case with symptoms associated with hormonal imbalance, these conditions can feed off one another and increase in severity if left unchecked.
Which Other Symptoms Do Andropause and Menopause Have in Common?
Repeated and extended periods of stress can affect any person, even on the hormonal level. Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands during stressful situations. When stressful situations become more routine, the body can overproduce cortisol, leading to mood swings, further increased stress, and a variety of other conditions. This negative feedback loop is something that could potentially have a negative impact on either female or male whole body health.
Increased Body Fat
Unexpected weight gain is another symptom that andropause and menopause have in common. Low estrogen levels in women can lead to an increase in body fat, especially in the belly. In men, excess abdominal fat can often be the result of low testosterone levels. Fatigue, another symptom that andropause and menopause have in common, can also be exacerbated by increased body fat.
Reduced Cardiovascular Function
When struggling with hormonal imbalance, both men and women could also experience a decline in cardiovascular function and even an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Low levels of either estrogen or testosterone could not only lead to this increased risk of cardiovascular disease, but they could also further contribute to adverse cardiovascular conditions by promoting increased body fat.
The combination of decreased bone density and an increased risk of osteoporosis can also be the result of both low estrogen in women and low testosterone in men. Over time, these conditions can make bones brittle and increase the risk of fractures and other injuries.
Changes to Hair and Skin
Men and women can also both experience changes to their hair and skin as a result of hormonal imbalance. Imbalances of sex hormones like estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can all lead to accelerated hair loss. These and other hormonal imbalances can also lead to a wide range of skin changes, including dry skin, dark splotches and small skin growths like skin tags.
Reduced Sex Drive
Imbalanced levels of either female or male sex hormones can lead to various forms of sexual dysfunction, including a reduced sex drive. Hormonal imbalances can have devastating effects on sexual health, and these effects have the potential to become more pronounced as sexual desire wanes and becomes less frequent.
How Does Menopause Affect Women?
While both men and women can experience reduced sex drive as a result of hormonal imbalance, their other experiences with sexual dysfunction can vary. Hormonal imbalance can also lead to other conditions that are unique to women. Imbalanced levels of estrogen, progesterone and other hormones can lead to a wide range of conditions and symptoms that include:
- Irregular or heavy periods
- Hirsutism (excess growth of body hair)
- Vaginal dryness
- Pain during intercourse and increased risk of vaginal atrophy
How Does Andropause Affect Men?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is probably the most well-known form of male sexual dysfunction. While ED can be the result of a variety of sources, it is a common symptom in men who struggle with andropause and its ensuing low levels of testosterone. In addition to having the potential to cause ED and loss of sex drive, andropause has been known to affect men with a variety of other symptoms and conditions that include:
- Decrease in muscle mass
- Gynecomastia (increase in the size of male breast tissue)
Best Methods for Addressing Hormonal Imbalance
On the bright side, it is possible to naturally promote hormonal balance by adhering to healthy diet and lifestyle routines. Maintaining a healthy level of body fat can go a long way towards supporting hormonal balance. Unfortunately, andropause and menopause make it increasingly difficult to manage the delicate balance between the body’s various hormones.
When natural methods are no longer effective enough, many women and men address hormonal imbalance with hormone replacement therapy (HRT). There are a wide range of options available in how to administer prescription hormone medications, including creams, gels, capsules, patches, liquid injections and pellet implants.
HRT for Women
HRT has been recognized as an effective method for addressing the hormonal imbalances caused by menopause. Addressing the effects of menopause often involves a combination of estrogen and progesterone in order to promote hormonal balance while reducing the added risk of adverse health effects associated with estrogen-only therapy.
HRT for Men
Men often address the effects of andropause with testosterone HRT. While testosterone can be administered through gels, pellets and patches, it is most commonly prescribed in the form of a liquid to be injected once weekly via needle. This method can effectively deliver testosterone straight to the bloodstream. However, this method can be inconvenient or even painful in some instances.
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