By J. Manuel Cordova, M. D., Internal Medicine & Geriatric Specialist
Hormone Replace Therapy (HRT)
Hormone Replacement Therapy or Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is a very common health issue for both women and men. There are synthetic products or natural products (Bioidentical) currently used in the treatment called Hormone Replacement. From the time adults reach 40, the body has already started producing less hormones and they continues to decrease as we get older.
Hormones play an important role in the body’s overall health. When the body stops producing hormones, many people choose to supplement the lack of hormones with ‘replacement therapy.’
A few of the most common signs of hormone deficiency are changes in hair texture, dry skin, depression, irritability, hot flashes, incontinence, accelerated osteoporosis, fatigue, anxiety, insomnia, vaginal dryness, sexual dysfunction, forgetfulness and an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. The Estrogen Hormone is also important in controlling blood cholesterol and metabolizing Calcium.
Menopause for women generally occurs after age 50. During menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs (ovums) and estrogen and progesterone stops as well.
The condition for aging men is known as ‘Andropause’ and involves less noticeable changes. Men can, however, experience many of the same symptoms as mentioned above.
HRT or BHRT is a personal choice. Many women suffer with extreme body/health changes and will resort to Hormone Replacement Therapy to maintain a better quality of life. Other women, however, may experience little physical or psychological change and not feel therapy is necessary.
Few men, compared to the number of women, seek Hormone Replacement Therapy. For those that do, testosterone is usually the main concern and treatment is relatively easy.
Women who seek Hormone Replacement Therapy are faced with difficult decisions. There are many different opinions and the medical community in the U.S. and Canada are not as proactive about prescribing treatment as they once were. The relationship between hormone therapy and certain cancers is viewed very differently around the world. Most International healthcare physicians support hormone therapy.
Women and men over 50 should have their hormone levels checked by a qualified physician annually. A laboratory blood test is usually sufficient to determine your current hormone levels. Based on the laboratory test information ‘and’ your medical history ‘and’ your current health status ‘and’ your current diet/nutrition status, the doctor will be able to recommend a protocol that is specifically designed for ‘you.’
HRT is not an exact science that applies the same treatment to every patient. It is truly a trial and error process in most cases and requires adequate ‘time’ to find the best solution. Many women become very frustrated with hot flashes, mood changes, insomnia, etc. and want immediate results. Unfortunately, Hormone Replacement Therapy is not like taking an antibiotic for an infection. You first have to find the right combination of hormones and then find the right dosage. It is unique for each person. You may have a friend taking a particular medication and feeling wonderful, but it may not work for you at all.
Some people will spend hours on the Internet trying to find the right answer for their problem. Not all information on the Internet is correct. It will never take the place of a licensed medical doctor sitting down with the patient face to face and discussing the issues. The Internet ‘can’ be an excellent reference source for many things, but it can also provide too much information for some people to digest which can lead to unnecessary confusion and worry.
Much of the information on the Internet is also ‘advertisement based’– someone trying to sell a product or service. Websites from Medical Associations, Physicians and Medical Colleges are usually reliable sources for information.
Remember, diet and exercise is a major factor to maintain good health. If you are taking hormones, I recommend only natural or bio-identical products.