When we were teenagers, our parents shook their heads and explained our follies with something along the lines of, "Their hormones are raging."
No one is likely to say that about any of us who have turned the corner on life.
Hormones may no longer be raging, but they are certainly all the rage.
Baby boomers are interested in hormone replacement possibilities. Let's take a look at the top two hormones on the hit parade.
This one has probably garnered the most press. Bountiful in our youth, it becomes scarce as we pile on the years. Loss of strength, muscles mass and vitality both physically and sexually come with the decline.
Many "longevity docs" are making big bucks injecting boomers with synthetic hGH. This, as you might guess, is not without controversy. And then there are the nutritional supplements that purport to stimulate production of hGH.
Research has shown that large doses of hGH, administered intravenously, do have some modest benefits for greater strength and endurance, but that it is far from the fountain of youth once promised by earlier studies that have since been dismissed. Besides, experts agree that the high doses required to get benefits have toxicity complications and other negative side effects. As for the nutritional supplements, they are widely regarded as ineffective.
This has been the rap on hGH, but a new study out the University of Washington took a fresh look at boosting growth hormone levels in older subjects with Capromorelin, a new medicine.
Compared with the placebo group, the medicated subjects increased their hGH and showed an increase of muscle mass and physical functioning such as a greater ability to climb stairs.
A drug that can actually restimulate the body's own ability to produce this hormone should have us lining up outside the pharmacy. But don't expect it to be available any time soon. It is difficult to get a drug for normal aging on the market because the FDA does not consider aging a disease.
Thanks to Barry Bonds and Floyd Landis, we all know that testosterone supplementation is an illegal boon to competitive performance. Some aging male bodies do lose the ability to maintain normal testosterone levels, and supplementation under medical supervision can be warranted in these cases to restore age-appropriate vigor. But men who are looking for that "pact with the devil" youthful prowess are just doing a middle-aged version of recreational drugs and with all kinds of dangerous side effects. The most serious is the hormone related cancers such as prostate cancer.
Women are getting on the testosterone bandwagon as well, even thought there is no treatment that is FDA approved. It is normal for women to have low levels of this "male" hormone, and many become testosterone deficient as they age. Women who are on testosterone patches have been shown to experience a boost in mood, energy level and libido. In a University of Pennsylvania study, it was found that older women with higher testosterone levels where three times as likely to have cardiovascular disease.
Dr. Michael O.L. Seabaugh, a Cape Girardeau native, is a clinical psychologist who lives and works in Santa Barbara, Calif. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org For more on the topics covered in Healthspan, visit his Web site: www.HealthspanWeb.com.