Modern medicine and public health practices have allowed us to live almost twice as long as our ancestors did. Still, the first signs of aging can be a wake-up call. It may start with something visible like a fine wrinkle or gray hair, or it may be a nagging ache or uncharacteristic fatigue. Whatever the specific sign, it may prompt you to re-evaluate your lifestyle choices.
The rate at which we age is affected by many factors. Genetics predetermines a variety of traits that influence the condition and longevity of our skin, hair, cardiovascular system, and brain. Meanwhile, our environment contributes nutrients that support our bodies as well as stresses and toxins that work against us.
Some of these are immutable. But you likely know that there are things you can do to optimize your health over time, prompting you to wonder about how to slow aging. Learning about the changes happening inside your body as you grow older can help you make choices to age actively, gracefully, and comfortably.
Recognizing the Signs of Aging
As our bodies age, many physiological processes begin to slow. Cell division rates decrease, and tissue breakdown exceeds new tissue production. Some of the most noticeable changes include:
- Skin. The first outward signs of aging are often seen on your hands or face. Since these parts of your body usually get the most sun, they are typically the first to show damage. Age spots, fine lines, and sagging skin are common sights as underlying collagen and elastin production slows. Skin dries out more easily as oil and sweat secretions decrease with age. Limiting sun exposure and using sunscreen are preventive measures to slow these changes. There are also prescription products, such as tretinoin, that can stimulate cell turnover and increase collagen production.
- Hair. Graying and hair loss are obvious and early signs of aging. Greying occurs when hair follicles reduce melanin production, making hair lose its pigment. The amount of hair thinning you experience is largely based on your genes, but most people experience a least some hair loss as they age. Many products are available to help us maintain the look and feel of healthy hair, including over-the-counter and prescription products.
- Body composition. Changes in body composition typically begin slowly and insidiously around middle age. You may notice that you are struggling through a workout or that it takes longer to recover from exercise. Eventually, you may notice the redistribution of fat around your abdomen or a loss of lean muscle mass. Even if you maintain the same fitness program, you no longer get the results you once did.
- Reproductive system. The signs of reproductive system changes may come on very gradually. Men may notice urinary changes due to prostate enlargement. For women, vaginal dryness or pain with intercourse may be early signals. Some people will experience decreased libido as well.
- Bones. The weakening of bone architecture is not often detected until a fracture occurs. A broken wrist or bone in the foot may be the first evidence that age-related osteoporosis or osteopenia has occurred.
In addition to the outward signs of aging, a more troubling phenomenon may be occurring under the surface. It is at this time of life that many serious chronic diseases become evident. These include cancer, cardiovascular disease, and type 2 diabetes.
How Hormones Contribute to the Realities of Aging
Certain lifestyle choices can contribute to many of these and make you look and feel older. Smoking restricts blood flow and causes vessels to stiffen over time. Heavy or regular alcohol use can cause cancer and damage multiple organ systems. Eliminating these habits and emphasizing supportive nutrition and exercise routines go a long way toward protecting our bodies as we age. But if you are wondering how to slow aging, there is even more you can do to support your long-term well-being: consider your hormones.
During midlife, hormone levels fluctuate and eventually decline. For women, hormone levels begin to change during perimenopause and then drop steeply, initiating menopause. For most men, testosterone levels begin to drop gradually in their 30s. Some men, however, experience a more dramatic drop, resulting in a low testosterone level for their age.
The decline of sex hormones is inextricably tied to aging. Some changes, like the loss of bone density, changes in libido, and skin texture, have been directly linked to hormones. Scientists continue to investigate the causal effects that hormonal changes may have on other systems, including cognitive impairment and dementia that often affect the brains of older adults.
How to Slow Aging Using HRT
Despite our best efforts, each of us will eventually experience the effects of aging. Practitioners of anti-aging medicine are specially trained to diagnose and treat the causes and symptoms of tissue damage as we age. Their goal is to help you look your best, feel more like yourself, and counteract the effects of hormone imbalance that may lead to more serious side effects.
One of their most powerful tools is hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The benefits of this approach are the subject of ongoing research. One analysis of published life tables noted that testosterone therapy increased longevity by 9-10% over five years for hypogonadal men, bringing them in line with men with normal testosterone levels. In the same study, hormone replacement therapy for postmenopausal women increased survival by 2.6% over five years.
In addition to increasing longevity, hormone replacement therapy can help to address many of the changes we experience as we grow older. Estrogen therapy is associated with healthier and younger-looking skin in women. Testosterone replacement therapy in both women and men supports energy metabolism, resulting in healthier body composition and the potential prevention of other serious side effects of aging. There is also a role for hormone replacement therapy in the sexual health of men and women as they age.
With all the contributing variables, each person’s experience with aging will be unique. A knowledgeable practitioner can customize a plan that includes a supportive diet and exercise plan. They can also recommend nutritional supplements and prescribe replacement hormones when indicated. Having a knowledgeable anti-aging specialist in your corner will give you the benefit of a personalized plan to help you live out your life in comfort and good health.
If you are wondering how to slow aging, the anti-aging specialists in the BodyLogicMD network just might have the answers. These expert practitioners can design a personalized BalancePro program to help you deal with age-related changes as comfortably as possible. Set up your telehealth consultation, or take the Hormone Balance Quiz to learn more about the programs offered by BodyLogicMD.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.