Hormone replacement therapy, or HRT, is exactly what the words say — hormones are being replaced as a form of therapy for some condition. For the last 60 years, HRT referred specifically to synthetic hormones given to menopausal women. Initially the intention was to keep women feeling young and feminine.
The first brand of HRT in America, Premarin, contained only equine (horse) estrogens. However, concern in the 1950’s over increasing rates of uterine cancer finally led the drug company many years later to create Prempro by adding a synthetic progestin. Over time, doctors were taught that HRT for women going through menopause helped their symptoms of hot flashes, mood swings, insomnia, and weight gain. And for millions, it did. However, in the late 1990’s some women were questioning the use of HRT. Did all women need it? Why were all women put on the same dose? Then in 2002 came the results of a large women’s study (the WHI) looking at the effects of HRT (Premarin and Prempro — neither of which are bio-identical hormone forms). Its findings took the medical community by surprise — HRT with NON bio-identical and synthetic hormones was not found to decrease a woman’s chance of getting heart disease, but rather definitively increased her risk of blood clotting, stroke and breast cancer.
As a result, women en masse stopped their HRT with the 2002 release of the WHI findings and began seeking alternatives for their menopausal symptoms. Yet many women found that as soon as they quit their HRT, their menopausal symptoms came rushing back. This was terribly discouraging for women struggling to deal with their symptoms but afraid of the health risks of synthetic forms of replacement hormones. And the pharmaceutical companies argued that there were no good alternatives to HRT. Many women have turned to bio-identical hormones as a superior form of HRT. These are female hormones normally manufactured by our endocrine system, principally the ovaries — estrogen, progesterone and testosterone — which decline as the ovaries stop releasing eggs. By “bio-identical” we mean that the biochemical structure of the hormone is perfectly identical to the hormone produced in a woman’s body — neither a horse’s hormone nor an artificially contrived formula almost like but just a little different from what a woman produces.
What took so long for bio-identical hormones to gain acceptance? The answer is that pharmaceutical companies actually developed synthetic estrogens and progestins in order to patent their drugs. They had hoped that the little changes they made to an estrogen or progesterone molecule would not make a big difference to a woman. But today we know that is not true. For example, birth control pills are synthetic estrogens and progestins, and as any woman who has taken them can attest, each brand affects her differently. Some women cannot tolerate them at all
Male menopause or andropause refers to a gradual decline of the hormone, testosterone, over a period of time. Women go through menopause fairly quickly whereas men have more gradual and less obvious changes so the symptoms may not be recognized and can build up over time. Clinical evidence suggests that imbalanced testosterone levels can increase a man’s risk of heart attack, stroke Alzheimer’s disease while decreasing mental clarity, sex drive, competitive edge and more. Some potential negative effects of andropause include:
Stiffness in muscles and joints
-> Decreased fitness, and decreased effectiveness of workouts