Weight Loss Supplements—Are They Worth the Cost and Potential Risks?

dietStory at-a-glance 

Weight loss pills are a nod to the pharmaceutical Band-Aid mentality, and actually run counter to the idea of a healthy lifestyle. This is why I stopped selling weight loss supplements, and it’s why I encourage Continue reading

Your Brain Is Related To Your Sex Life

testoWhat do your brain and your sex life have in common? Testosterone.

Testosterone decreases with age. This causes an avalanche of other problems. Testosterone is truly the elixir of youth. With the exception of health enthusiasts, few people are even aware of the great importance of testosterone Continue reading

Natural Help for Women’s Sexual Dysfunction

Although male sexual difficulties seem to receive more attention, women’s sexual dysfunction may be just as widespread. But there are natural ways for women to deal with sexual problems.

Causation

There are many causes for inhibited sexual desire, as well as inability to achieve orgasm for a woman. These physical and hormonal causes for lack of sex drive and/or orgasm failure include: Continue reading

Natural Help for Erectile Dysfunction

The first step to naturally lowering your risk of impotence is to step out the door. Exercises like walking three hours per week drop your risk of having erectile dysfunction by 30 percent.1 And along with physical activity, a wide variety of herbs can also boost your sexual life.

The Value of Movement

If you’re an immovable object, your sex life isn’t likely to budge, either. An analysis of 31,742 men age 53 to 90 reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2003 shows that exercise keeps you leaner and fit for sex, as well as mentally more ready for sexual interaction.

Stress Obstructions Continue reading

The Real Solution to the Viral Illness Excludes Antibiotics.

Everyone dreads the misery of acute viral illnesses like colds, flu, bronchitis or viral pneumonia. Taking an antibiotic does nothing to help you feel better. Instead, the best antiviral strategy consists of natural precautions that boost your immune system’s ability to defeat these pathogenic invaders.

Regrettably, for years I treated patients who were sick from viruses with the standard remedies of pain relievers and, too often, antibiotics that were supposed to help people get well quick. (They didn’t.) Even though American doctors dole out antibiotics like candy when patients have viral illnesses, these medicines are powerless against viruses. They work only for bacterial infections.

Statistics from the well-researched article Death by Medicine reveal there are an estimated 20 million unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions for viral illnesses given to patients in the U.S. each year. This most often happens because sick patients insist their doctors proffer an antibiotic prescription Continue reading

The Truth and Fiction Concerning DHEA

There are thousands of books and medical journals written on the subject of DHEA, so we will attempt to explain the facts in an easy to understand way, so you can better understand what is truth and what is fiction to help you make better choices about your health care.

Dihydroepiandrosterone “DHEA”

DHEA is a naturally occurring steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands by both men and women, and it’s the most abundant steroid hormone in the bloodstream.

We are all born with natural DHEA, and our bodies continue to produce it on a daily basis, depending upon our physical circumstances. DHEA plays a key role in our physiological functions, and without it we cannot survive.

There is much confusion and twisting of the facts regarding true DHEA naturally produced by our own body, and the synthetic drug which has been given a trade name of DHEA. We will call true DHEA “DHEA”, and the synthetic drug “synthetic DHEA”. We will touch base on that shortly, but in the meantime we will discuss some of the aspects of true DHEA, naturally produced by your own body.

DHEA is the Mother Hormone Continue reading

Live Longer with Love in Your Life

Love is the most powerful emotion you will ever experience, and studies show that while you are feeling it, endorphins and immune cells are produced in great number, boosting your health and longevity. For Valentine’s Day, share love and health with the special people in your life and lengthen your years.

1. Love = a Healthy Heart

Many studies have shown that relationships play a role in heart health. A study from the University of Texas Research, conducted with rabbits, found that love can reduce plaque buildup in your arteries, helping reduce overall risk of heart attack. In this study, rabbits were fed an artery-blocking diet, and some of the rabbits received love and affection while the others received none. The surprising results revealed that the rabbits given tender loving care had 60% less plaque buildup than their counterparts.

2. Get an Immune Boost with Love

Love in your life might just save you from the flu. One study showed that a five-minute episode of feeling genuine care or compassion enhanced the whole immune system, causing a gradual climb in secretory immunoglobulin A (IgA), your body’s natural antibody against colds, flu, and other invading germs. Even watching movies about love or altruism, petting a fluffy animal pal, and practicing selfless service for others has been shown to increase levels of IgA.

3. Keep in Touch with Your Loved Ones

Human touch, long recognized as a powerful healing technique, increases your body’s production of endorphins, growth hormone, and DHEA, all of which lengthen your life span and lower the negative impact of stress. In fact, studies have found that unconscious patients who are regularly touched recover faster than those who are not touched. Researchers have also observed that orphaned babies stop growing and even die from the lack of touch and love. So hug, cuddle, and massage your loved ones to live longer.

4. Connect with Friends to Increase Your Lifespan

Humans have depended on one another for survival since time immemorial, and indeed, many studies have found that even today, people rich in social and community support are more likely to live longer than those with weak social connections. Even people with unhealthy lifestyles tend to live longer than people lacking in social and community support. According to a study recently put out by Brigham Young University, spending time with friends has an extremely positive effect on health and can cut your risk of an early death in half. Julianne Holt-Lunstad, the research team’s head said that lacking in social relationships “was equivalent to smoking up to 15 cigarettes a day.” If you find yourself spending most of your time alone, reach out. Offer to babysit for family members or join groups of people who share similar interests and gather together in person. Feel your presence in the world and make it felt by others.

5. Prescription for Longevity: A Happy Marriage

Research has confirmed that happily married couples live, on average, four years longer than single people. According to one study, nearly 100 percent of male centenarians are married or have only recently been widowed. Psychologists attribute the increased life span to the sense of interconnectedness with another human being. Studies have indicated that a happy marriage improves your mood, positively affects your dietary decisions, and leads to a larger social network of friends — three major factors of longevity. People in a marriage also tend to take better care of each other; and feeling that someone would care for you in times of illness appears to increase the sense of security about the future, cutting back on stress.

Studies suggest that the longer a marriage lasts, the greater the rewards. These days, there are many forms of spouse-like relationships that may benefit in similar ways. But not all relationships positively affect our health. Other research has found that marriage problems may increase risk for heart disease by 34% and tend to result in a lower survival rate in women with breast cancer.

Bonus tip: If you have recently ended a relationship, you can strengthen your spirit with affirmations and invocations. Consider listening to Invocations for Health, Longevity, and Healing a Broken Heart, a powerful set of guided invocations.

6. Healthy Loving Lengthens Your Life Span

Healthy sex, nature’s fountain of youth, raises your levels of endorphins, DHEA, and growth hormone, which increase longevity. At the same time, sex lowers levels of the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol, which decrease your life span. A Duke University study showed that women who were happy with their sex lives could live up to eight years longer compared with women who were indifferent to their sex lives. While healthy loving adds years to your life, it also takes years off your face, making you actually look younger. Studies show that people who are highly satisfied with their sex life looked 4 to 7 years younger than their peers. This results from reduced stress, greater happiness, and better sleep. So before you invest in a costly makeover, try improving your sex life.

If love equals health, how to manifest love? Begin by loving yourself. For your relationships, share your time, energy, and self with your loved ones. Look for ways to give back and make them happy. For instance, you might cook a meal or do the dishes as a pleasant surprise. Or you might send them a card, listing their many special qualities. It does not need to be elaborate or expensive, but it should show that you care and appreciate them. As you give freely of your love, you will receive meaningful love in return.

You can find many more ways that love helps you live to 100 in Secrets of Longevity: Hundreds of Ways to Live to Be 100, which is now available on Kindle. If you are interested in a structured longevity program, check out my new book Secrets of Longevity 8-Week Program, a journal that will transform your health and lengthen your years.

I invite you to visit often and share your own personal health and longevity tips with me.

Courtesy of Dr.Mao

The 10 Most Important Blood Tests You Need

The 10 Most Important Blood Tests

Annual blood testing is the most important step aging adults can take to prevent life-threatening disease. With blood test results in hand, you can catch critical changes in your body before they manifest as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or worse. Having the proper blood tests can empower you to enact a science-based disease-prevention program that could add decades of healthy life.

Sadly, most annual medical check-ups involve the physician ordering only routine blood tests, if blood tests are ordered at all. Far too often, this blood work does not even test for important markers of disease risk. The consequences of failing to analyze blood for proven markers of disease risk are needless disability and death.

Blood tests have benefits that go far beyond disease prevention. For example, by monitoring levels of sex hormones, you can take decisive steps to enhance your quality of life, perhaps by correcting a depressive mental state, erectile dysfunction, abdominal obesity, or by improving your memory and energy levels.

In this article, we discuss the 10 most important blood tests that people over the age of 40 should have each year. Armed with the results of these tests, aging adults can work together with their physicians to avert serious health problems and achieve optimal health.

1. Chemistry Panel and Complete Blood Count

The Chemistry Panel and Complete Blood Count (CBC) is the best place to begin your disease-prevention program. This low-cost panel will give you and your physician a quick snapshot of your overall health. This test provides a broad range of diagnostic information to assess your vascular, liver, kidney, and blood cell status. The Complete Blood Count measures the number, variety, percentage, concentration, and quality of platelets, red blood cells, and white blood cells, and thus is useful in screening for infections, anemias, and other hematological abnormalities.

OPTIMAL RANGES FOR POPULAR BLOOD TESTS
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
Glucose 65-99 mg/dL 70-85 mg/dL
Cholesterol 100-199 mg/dL 180-200 mg/dL
LDL 0-99 mg/dL Under 100 mg/dL
HDL 40-59 mg/dL Over 55 mg/dL
Triglycerides 0-149 mg/dL Under 100 mg/dL

The Chemistry Panel provides information on the status of your cardiovascular system by testing for total cholesterol, HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipo-protein), triglycerides, and the total cholesterol/HDL ratio.1

The Chemistry Panel also measures blood glucose, which is critically important for detecting early-stage metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. In light of the rapidly growing epidemic of diabetes and other related metabolic syndromes, monitoring your fasting glucose levels is as important as knowing your cholesterol.

Also included in the Chemistry Panel is an assessment of critical minerals such as calcium, potassium, and iron.

2. Fibrinogen

An important contributor to blood clotting, fibrinogen levels increase in response to tissue inflammation. Since the development of atherosclerosis and heart disease are essentially inflammatory processes, increased fibrinogen levels can help predict the risk of heart disease and stroke.

High fibrinogen levels not only are associated with an increased risk of heart attack, but also are seen in other inflammatory disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis and glomerulonephritis (inflammation of the kidney).

In a recently published study from the University of Hong Kong Medical Center, researchers identified increased levels of fibrinogen in the blood as an independent risk factor for mortality in patients with peripheral arterial disease. When left untreated, peripheral arterial disease increases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death. This 2005 study followed 139 men and women with peripheral arterial disease for an average of six years. Death from all causes increased with elevated fibrinogen levels: 80% of patients with a fibrinogen level above 340 mg/dL survived for less than three years. Researchers concluded that increased fibrinogen was an independent risk factor for mortality in this patient population.2

OPTIMAL RANGE OF FIBRINOGEN
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
193-423 mg/dL 200-300 mg/dL

In the February 2006 issue of the Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, researchers reported an association between increased levels of fibrinogen and risk for venous thrombosis (blood clots).3 A recent study from Greece found an association between higher fibrinogen levels and the presence of multiple coronary lesions in patients who had suffered an acute myocardial infarction.4

A combination of lifestyle and behavioral changes—such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and becoming more physically active—may help to lower fibrinogen levels to the optimal range. Nutritional interventions may also help to optimize fibrinogen levels. You and your physician may wish to discuss the use of fish oil, niacin, and folic acid, along with vitamins A and C.

3. Hemoglobin A1C

One of the best ways to assess your glucose status is testing for hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c).5 This test measures a person’s blood sugar control over the last two to three months and is an independent predictor of heart disease risk in persons with or without diabetes.6 Maintaining healthy hemoglobin A1C levels may also help patients with diabetes to prevent some of the complications of the disease.7

According to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2005, type I diabetes patients who monitored their hemoglobin A1C (HbA1c) levels were able to achieve tight glucose control, thereby significantly lowering their risk of a cardiovascular disease event.7 Long-term elevation of blood sugar, a hallmark of diabetes, is associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.

The American Diabetes Association recommends testing HbA1c levels every three to six months to monitor blood sugar levels in insulin-treated patients, in patients who are changing therapy, and in patients with elevated blood glucose levels. Since HbA1c is not subject to the same fluctuations that normally occur with daily glucose monitoring, it represents a more accurate picture of blood sugar control.8

OPTIMAL RANGE OF HEMOGLOBIN A1C
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
4.5-5.7% <4.5%

In a recent study, 1,340 type I diabetic patients were followed for a total of 17 years. Patients were randomly assigned to either intensive orconventional diabetic (blood glucose) control. In the group receivingintensive treatment, hemoglobin A1C levels were significantly lower and the risk of nonfatal myocardial infarction, stroke, or death from cardiovascular disease decreased by 57%. The decrease in HbA1c values was “significantly associated with most of the positive effects of intensive treatment on the risk of cardiovascular disease.”7

Nutritional therapies may help to optimize hemoglobin A1C levels. You and your physician may wish to discuss the use of chromium, cinnamon, and coffee berry extracts.

4. DHEA

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is a precursor to the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. Blood levels of DHEA peak in one’s twenties and then decline dramatically with age, decreasing to 20-30% of peak youthful levels between the ages of 70 and 80. DHEA is frequently referred to as an “anti-aging” hormone.

Recently, researchers in Turkey found that DHEA levels were significantly lower in men with symptoms associated with aging, including erectile dysfunction.9 Healthy levels of DHEA may support immune function, bone density, mood, libido, and healthy body composition.10

Elevated levels of DHEA may indicate congenital adrenal hyperplasia, a group of disorders that result from the impaired ability of the adrenal glands to produce glucocorticoids.11-12

Supplementation with DHEA increases immunological function, improves bone mineral density, increases sexual libido in women, reduces abdominal fat, protects the brain following nerve injury, and helps prevent diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.10

Emerging research suggests that DHEA may have antidepressant effects. In a report in the January 2006 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, investigators found that in HIV-infected men and women, supplementation with DHEA was superior to placebo in treating non-major depression (with a response rate of 62% vs. 33%, retrospectively).13

In another study from the National Institute of Mental Health, investigators found that DHEA significantly improved midlife-onset major and minor depression in men and women aged 45 to 65 years old.14

OPTIMAL RANGE OF DHEA IN MEN*
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
280-640 µg/dL 400-500 µg/dL
OPTIMAL RANGE OF DHEA IN WOMEN*
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
65-380 µg/dL 350-430 µg/dL

*Measured as DHEA Sulfate

Furthermore, a recently published study from Israel demonstrated that DHEA administration decreased self-administration of cocaine in rats, suggesting a potential for DHEA in reducing cravings and supporting recovery from addiction.15

In a recent study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology, scientists demonstrated that DHEA levels were significantly lower in elderly persons predisposed to chronic wound conditions, such as venous ulcers, and that administration of DHEA accelerated wound healing in aging mice. This led the research team to suggest that DHEA supplementation may be a safe, effective strategy to improve wound healing in the elderly.16

Natural therapies may help to optimize DHEA levels. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of pregnenolone or DHEA. Those with estrogen-related cancers such as breast or prostate cancer should not use DHEA.

5. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) (Men Only)

Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) is a protein manufactured by the prostate gland in men. Elevated levels may suggest an enlarged prostate, prostate inflammation, or prostate cancer. PSA levels may also be used to monitor the efficacy of therapeutic regimens for prostate conditions.

Elevated levels of PSA may not necessarily signal prostate cancer, and prostate cancer may not always be accompanied by expression of PSA. Levels can be elevated in the presence of a urinary tract infection or an inflamed prostate. A PSA level over 2.5 ng/mL, or a PSA doubling time (the time required for PSA value to double) of less than 12 years, may be a cause for concern.

The American Cancer Society recommends annual PSA testing for men beginning at age 50. Men who are at high risk should begin PSA testing at age 40-45. PSA levels increase with age, even in the absence of prostate abnormalities.17

More than 15% of men with PSA values between 2.6 and 4.0 ng/mL who are 40 years or older have prostate cancer, according to a prostate cancer screening study published in 2005 in the Journal of Urology.18

According to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 25% of patients with normal digital rectal exams and total PSA levels of 4.0-10.0 ng/mL have prostate cancer.19 In a later study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, investigators recommended that “lowering the threshold for biopsy from 4.1 to 2.6 ng per milliliter in men younger than 60 years would double the cancer-detection rate from 18 percent to 36 percent.”20 It should be noted that levels below the currently recognized cutoff of 4.1 ng/mL may not distinguish between prostate cancer and benign prostate disease.

OPTIMAL RANGE OF PROSTATE-SPECIFIC ANTIGEN (PSA)
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
0-4 ng/mL 0-2.6 ng/mL

In a recently published study in the journal Urology, prostate cancer was detected in 22% of patients with PSA levels between 2.0 and 4.0 ng/mL, and most of those cancers biopsied were significant, leading researchers to conclude that an “important number of cancers could be detected in the PSA rangeof 2.0 to 4.0 ng/mL.”21 In another study, investigators in Spain detected significant cancers in some patients with a PSA range between 1.0 and 2.99 ng/mL. Although the risk of developing cancer for those in the low PSA range is small, the authors said, it is still relevant.22

A healthy Mediterranean-type diet may offer protection against prostate cancer and other diseases associated with aging. Natural therapies may also help support prostate health. You and your physician may wish to discuss the use of saw palmetto, beta-sitosterol, pygeum, and nettle root extracts. (See also “Beta-Sitosterol and the Aging Prostate Gland,” Life Extension, June 2005.)

6. Homocysteine

The amino acid homocysteine is formed in the body during the metabolism of methionine. High homocysteine levels have been associated with increased risk of heart attack, bone fracture, and poor cognitive function.

Incremental increases in the level of homocysteine correlate with an increased risk for coronary artery disease. Data from the Physicians’ Health Study, which tracked 14,916 healthy male physicians with no previous history of heart disease, showed that highly elevated homocysteine levels were associated with a more than threefold increase in the risk of heart attack over a five-year period.23

Homocysteine has also become recognized as an independent risk factor for bone fractures. In a recent study of 1,267 men and women with an average age of 76, investigators in the Netherlands concluded that high homocysteine levels and low vitamin B12 concentrations were significantly associated with an increased risk for bone fracture.24 This mirrors data from two previous studies published in 2004 in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which elevated homocysteine levels were shown to be an important and independent risk factor for osteoporotic fractures, including hip fractures.25,26

OPTIMAL RANGE OF HOMOCYSTEINE
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
MALE
4.3-15.3 µmol/L
MALE
< 7.2 µmol/L
FEMALE
3.3-11.6 µmol/L
FEMALE
< 7.2 µmol/L

Elevated homocysteine levels have recently been linked to other disorders. In three recent studies, investigators found an association between elevated homocysteine levels and age-related macular degeneration.27-29 In Japan, increased homocysteine levels were found to be associated with the presence of gallstones in middle-aged men. Investigators suggested that this association “may partly explain the reported high prevalence rate of coronary heart disease” in persons with gallstones.30

A study from the Netherlands has shown that among normal individuals aged 30-80, elevated homocysteine concentrations are associated with prolonged lower cognitive performance.31

Natural therapies may help to optimize homocysteine levels. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of vitamin B12, vitamin B6, folic acid, and trimethylglycine.

7. C-Reactive Protein

Increasingly, medical science is discovering that inflammation within the body can lead to a range of life-threatening degenerative diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, macular degeneration, and cognitive decline. By measuring your body’s level of inflammation through regular C-reactive protein testing, you can devise a strategy of diet, exercise, and supplementation to halt many of these conditions.

C-reactive protein (CRP) is a sensitive marker of systemic inflammation that has emerged as a powerful predictor of coronary heart disease and other diseases of the cardiovascular system.32 The highly sensitive cardiac CRP test measures C-reactive protein in the blood at very early stages of vascular disease, allowing for appropriate intervention with diet, supplements, or anti-inflammatory therapy. The cardiac CRP test detects much smaller levels of inflammation than the basic CRP test, so is therefore able to identify at-risk patients earlier, even among apparently healthy persons.

A review of epidemiological data found that high-sensitivity cardiac CRP was able to predict risk of incident myocardial infarction, stroke, peripheral arterial disease, and sudden cardiac death among healthy individuals with no history of cardiovascular disease, as well as predict recurrent events and death in patients with acute or stable coronary syndromes. This inflammatory marker provided prognostic information that was independent of other measures of risk such as cholesterol level, metabolic syndrome, and high blood pressure. Investigators concluded that greater levels of cardiac CRP are associated with higher cardiovascular risk.33

OPTIMAL RANGE OF HIGH-SENSITIVITY C-REACTIVE PROTEIN
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
MALE
0-3 mg/L
MALE
<0.55 mg/L
FEMALE
0-3 mg/L
FEMALE
<1.5 mg/L

According to a recently published article in the journal Circulation, “In older men and women, elevated C-reactive protein was associated with increased 10-year risk of coronary heart disease, regardless of the presence or absence of cardiac risk factors. A single CRP measurement provided information beyond conventional risk assessment, especially in [men and women at intermediate levels of risk].”34

Increased levels of C-reactive protein have previously been strongly linked with a greater risk of developing type II diabetes.35 These results were confirmed in a more recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health. In a prospective study of 32,826 healthy women, elevated CRP levels were a strong independent predictor of type II diabetes. According to investigators, these data support the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of type II diabetes.36

C-reactive protein is also an independent risk factor for the progression of age-related macular degeneration, according to recent research published in the Archives of American Ophthalmology.37 This follows a study by the same authors, in which elevated CRP levels were shown to be an independent risk factor for age-related macular degeneration, implicating “the role of inflammation in the pathogenesis of [age-related macular degeneration].”38

Elevated levels of CRP have also been associated with the loss of cognitive ability in seemingly healthy people.39 Furthermore, elevated CRP levels have been strongly associated with major depression in men.40

High-sensitivity CRP testing likewise reveals systemic inflammation that is associated with disease activity in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.41

Natural therapies may help to optimize high-sensitivity CRP levels. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of fish oil, L-carnitine, and soluble fiber before meals.

8. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH)

Secreted by the pituitary gland, thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) controls thyroid hormone secretion in the thyroid. When blood levels fall below normal, this indicates hyperthyroidism (increased thyroid activity, also called thyrotoxicosis), and when values are above normal, this suggests hypothyroidism (low thyroid activity). Overt hyper- or hypothyroidism is generally easy to diagnose, but subclinical disease can be more elusive.

Because the symptoms of thyroid imbalance may be nonspecific or absent and may progress slowly, and since many doctors do not routinely screen for thyroid function, people with mild hyper- or hypothyroidism can go undiagnosed for some time. Undiagnosed mild disease can progress to clinical disease states. This is a dangerous scenario, since people with hypothyroidism and elevated serum cholesterol and LDL have an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

Mild hypothyroidism (low thyroid gland function) may be associated with reversible hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol) and cognitive dysfunction, as well as such nonspecific symptoms as fatigue, depression, cold intolerance, dry skin, constipation, and weight gain. Mild hyperthyroidism is often associated with atrial fibrillation (a disturbance of heart rhythm), reduced bone mineral density, and nonspecific symptoms such as fatigue, weight loss, heat intolerance, nervousness, insomnia, muscle weakness, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations.

One study found that TSH levels greater than 2.0 mU/L increase the 20-year risk of developing hypothyroidism,42 while another study found that TSH levels greater than 4.0 mU/L increase the risk of heart attack in elderly women.43 Recently, published data showed that sub-clinical hypothyroidism was associated with an increased risk of congestive heart failure among older adults with TSH levels of 7.0 mU/L or greater.44

OPTIMAL RANGE OF THYROID STIMULATING HORMONE (TSH)
Current Laboratory Reference Range Optimal Range
0.35-5.50 mU/L 0.35-2.1 mU/L

In healthy postmenopausal women, TSH levels at the low end of the normal range (0.5-1.1 mU/L) are associated with low bone mineral density and a 2.2-fold greater risk of osteoporosis, according to a study published in 2006 in the journal Clinical Endocrinology.45

Measuring TSH is the best test for assessing thyroid function. Currently, the American Thyroid Association recommends screening for TSH levels beginning at age 35, and every five years thereafter.46 If results are abnormal, assessing TSH in conjunction with levels of tri-iodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4) blood levels may help assist definitive diagnosis.

Natural therapies may help to support thyroid health and optimize TSH levels. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of L-tyrosine, iodine, and selenium.

9. Testosterone (Free)

Testosterone is produced in the testes in men, in the ovaries in women, and in the adrenal glands of both men and women. Men and women alike can be dramatically affected by the decline in testosterone levels that occurs with aging.

In the serum of both men and women, less than 2% of testosterone typically is found in the free (uncomplexed) state. Unlike bound testosterone, the free form of the hormone can circulate in the brain and affect nerve cells. Testosterone plays different roles in men and women, including the regulation of fertility, libido, and muscle mass. In men, free testosterone levels may be used to evaluate whether sufficient bioactive testosterone is available to protect against abdominal obesity, mental depression, osteoporosis, and heart disease. In women, low levels of testosterone have been associated with decreased libido and well-being, while high levels of free testosterone may indicate hirsuitism (a condition of excessive hair growth on the face and chest) or polycystic ovarian syndrome. Increased testosterone in women may also indicate low estrogen levels.

Men: In men, testosterone levels normally decline with age, dropping to approximately 65% of young adult levels by age 75.47 This drop in testosterone is partially responsible for the significant physiological changes seen in aging men. In fact, low levels of testosterone are associated with numerous adverse health conditions, including diminished libido, metabolic syndrome,48 erectile dysfunction, loss of muscle tone, increased abdominal fat, low bone density, depression,49 Alzheimer’s disease,50 type II diabetes,51 and atherosclerosis.52

OPTIMAL RANGE OF FREE TESTOSTERONE IN MEN
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
6.6-26.5 pg/mL 15-26.5 pg/mL
OPTIMAL RANGE OF FREE TESTOSTERONE IN WOMEN
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
0-2.2 pg/mL 1.4-2.2 pg/mL

New research shows that low testosterone levels are a risk factor for ischemic heart disease in men. Recent research published in the journal Endocrinology Research showed a relationship between decreased testosterone levels and increased severity of thoracic aortic atherosclerosis in men.53

Women: Following menopause, levels of testosterone in women decrease, along with a concomitant decline in libido, mood, and general well-being. Although women produce only small quantities of testosterone, evidence indicates that this important hormone helps women maintain sexual function, as well as muscle strength and mass. Investigators reporting in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that when obese women were given low doses of a synthetic testosterone analogue, they lost more body fat and subcutaneous abdominal fat, and gained more muscle mass, than women given placebo. The testosterone-supplemented women also experienced a slight increase in resting metabolic rate.54

Optimal testosterone levels may support healthy mood, libido, body composition, and cardiovascular wellness. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of supplements such as DHEA and pregnenolone. Speak to your physician to determine whether prescription testosterone may also be helpful for you.

10. Estradiol

Like testosterone, both men and women need estrogen for numerous physiological functions. Estradiol is the primary circulating form of estrogen in men and women, and is an indicator of hypothalamic and pituitary function. Men produce estradiol in much smaller amounts than do women; most estradiol is produced from testosterone and adrenal steroid hormones, and a fraction is produced directly by the testes. In women, estradiol is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, and peripheral tissues. Levels of estradiol vary throughout the menstrual cycle, and drop to low but constant levels after menopause.

In women, blood estradiol levels help to evaluate menopausal status and sexual maturity. Increased levels in women may indicate an increased risk for breast or endometrial cancer. Estradiol plays a role in supporting healthy bone density in men and women. Low levels are associated with an increased risk of osteoporosis and bone fracture in men and women as well. Elevated levels of estradiol in men may accompany gynecomastia (breast enlargement), diminished sex drive, and difficulty with urination.

Women: Diminished levels of estradiol correlate with low levels of bone mineral density, which is a strong risk factor for osteoporosis.55 Optimizing estradiol levels in early menopausal women has been associated with relief from hot flashes, irritability, and insomnia.56

According to a recently published report from the University of Michigan School of Public Health, lower estradiol levels in women are associated with higher levels of markers of cardiovascular disease risk.57

Men: In older men, low levels of estradiol have been linked with an increased risk of vertebral fractures;58 conversely, estradiol levels are found to be positively associated with bone mineral density, suggesting an association between low serum levels and the development of osteoporosis.59 A recent study from France found a correlation between low estradiol and skeletal frailty.60

OPTIMAL RANGE OF ESTRADIOL IN MEN
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
<54 pg/mL 10-30 pg/mL
OPTIMAL RANGE OF ESTRADIOL IN WOMEN
Standard Reference Range Optimal Range
0-528 pg/mL 352-528 pg/mL

Significant positive correlations were found between estradiol levels and levels of total cholesterol, according to results from a recently published study of 111 men with stable coronary artery disease. Researchers suggested that estradiol has a possible role in “promoting the development of atherogenic lipid milieu in men with coronary artery disease.”61

Optimal estradiol levels may support healthy bone density, cardiovascular health, and well-being. You may wish to discuss with your doctor the use of supplements such as DHEA, pregnenolone, soy, black cohosh, and pomegranate. Speak to your physician to determine whether prescription therapies such as bioidentical estrogens may also be helpful for you.

Summary

Yearly blood testing is a simple yet powerful strategy to help you proactively take charge of your current and future health. A well-chosen complement of blood tests can thoroughly assess your overall state of health, as well as detect the silent warning signals that precede the development of serious diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Many diseases and disorders are treatable when caught early, but can severely impair the quality and length of your life if left unattended. Identifying these hidden risk factors will enable you to implement powerful strategies such as proper nutrition, weight loss, exercise, supplements, and medications in order to prevent progression to full-blown, life-threatening diseases. Blood testing can also detect biochemical changes that threaten well-being and quality of life, such as declining levels of sex hormones.

Armed with information on important health biomarkers, you and your physician can plan and execute a strategy to help you achieve and maintain vibrant health.

What Are the Adrenal Glands?

The adrenal glands are the part of the body responsible for releasing three different classes of hormones. These hormones control many important functions in the body, such as:

  • Maintaining metabolic processes, such as managing blood sugar levels and regulating inflammation
  • Regulating the balance of salt and water
  • Controlling the “fight or flight” response to stress
  • Maintaining pregnancy
  • Initiating and controlling sexual maturation during childhood and puberty

The adrenal glands are also an important source of sex steroids, such as estrogen and testosterone.

What are adrenal gland disorders?

Adrenal gland disorders occur when the adrenal glands don’t work properly.  Sometimes, the cause is a problem in another gland that helps to regulate the adrenal gland.  In other cases, the adrenal gland itself may have the problem.  The NICHD conducts and supports research on many adrenal gland disorders.  Some examples include:

  • Cushing’s Syndrome – Cushing’s syndrome happens when a person’s body is exposed to too much of the hormone cortisol. In this syndrome, a person’s body makes more cortisol than it needs. For example, adrenal tumors can cause the body to produce too much cortisol. In some cases, children are born with a form of adrenal hyperplasia that leads to Cushing syndrome. Or, in some cases, certain medications can cause the body to make too much cortisol
  • Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia – Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is a genetic disorder of adrenal gland deficiency.  In this disorder, the body doesn’t make enough of the hormone cortisol. The bodies of people with congenital adrenal hyperplasia may also have other hormone imbalances, such as not making enough aldosterone, but making too much androgen.
  • Pituitary Tumors – The pituitary gland is located in the brain and helps to regulate the activity of most other glands in the body, including the adrenal glands. In rare cases, benign (non-cancerous) tumors may grow on the pituitary gland, which may restrict the hormones it releases.

In some cases, tumors on the pituitary can lead to Cushing’s syndrome – this is called Cushing disease.  In other cases, the tumors reduce the adrenal gland’s release of hormones needed for the “fight or flight” response to stress.  If the body is unable to handle physiological stress—a condition called Addison’s disease—it can be fatal.

What are the treatments for adrenal gland disorders?

The treatment for adrenal gland disorders depends on the specific disorder or the specific cause of the disorder.  For example:

  • The treatment for Cushing’s syndrome depends on the cause. If the excess cortisol is caused by medication, your health care provider can change dosages or try a different medication to correct the problem.  If the Cushing’s syndrome is caused by the body making too much cortisol, treatments may include oral medication, surgery, radiation, or a combination of these treatments.
  • Congenital adrenal hyperplasia can’t be cured, but it can be treated and controlled.  People with congenital adrenal hyperplasia can take medication to help replace the hormones their bodies are not making.  Some people with congenital adrenal hyperplasia only need these medications when they are sick, but others may need to take them every day.
  • Doctors can successfully treat most pituitary tumors with microsurgery, radiation therapy, surgery, drugs, or a combination of these treatments. Surgery is currently the treatment of choice for tumors that grow rapidly, especially if they threaten or affect vision.  The treatment plan for other pituitary tumors differs according to the type and size of the tumor.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Beneficial for Postmenopausal Women

GENEVA –  Hormone replacement therapy might be beneficial for postmenopausal women at increased heart risk, say researchers.

“Although it is commonly understood that postmenopausal women, particularly those with early menopause, have an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease and it was thought that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would help to remedy this, some well-known clinical investigations, such as the Heart and Estrogen/progestin Replacement Study (HERS), were unable to demonstrate an improved outcome in postmenopausal women using HRT,” said Dr. Thomas Schindler, chief of nuclear cardiology at the University Hospitals of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland.

“The exact mechanism behind this increased risk, however, remains uncertain,” he added.

Some of the factors putting women at risk are an accumulation of body fat, insulin resistance, inflammation, dyslipidemia (disruption of lipid metabolism) and increases in arterial blood pressure.

Another important factor is the deprivation of naturally occurring estrogen.

For the study, the researchers evaluated the effect of long-term hormone replacement therapy with estrogen, mostly combined with progestin, on heart vessel function in 48 postmenopausal women who had been treated for coronary risk factors, such as hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol) or arterial hypertension.

They were divided into groups according to HRT. The first group comprised 18 women who were on HRT at baseline and at follow-up positron emission tomography (PET) assessment of coronary endothelial function (the inner lining of the coronary vessels).

The second group comprised 18 women who were not on HRT; and group 3 comprised 12 women who were on HRT at baseline, but not at follow-up PET exam.

“Given that preventive medical treatment of coronary risk factors, such as statins (cholesterol-lowering agents) or angiotensin-coverting enzyme inhibitors, usually improves coronary endothelial function, it is not known whether HRT, which commonly promotes the release of endothelial-derived NO in postmenopausal women with already medically treated coronary risk factors, might still exert an additional protective effect on the function of the coronary endothelium and, thus, the development of coronary artery disease,” said Schindler.

Applying PET, the researchers found that HRT widely maintained coronary endothelial function, while those postmenopausal women without HRT experienced a worsening in the endothelium function.

In addition, postmenopausal women who gave up HRT during the observational period demonstrated the most severe drop in the coronary endothelial function.

Steroid Hormone Deficiency May be Behind Cardiovascular Disease

Steroid Hormone Deficiency May be Behind Cardiovascular Disease

BOSTON – The deficiency of steroid hormones called androgens, such as testosterone, may be behind cardiovascular disease, according to a study.

Published in the Journal of Andrology, a report on the study underscores the fact that a number of studies have linked androgen deficiency to an increased mortality in men.

Testosterone (T) is an anabolic hormone with a wide range of beneficial effects on men’s health.

However, according to Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) researchers, the therapeutic role of T in men’s health remains a hotly debated issue for a number of reasons, including the purported risk of prostate cancer.

Working in collaboration with researchers from Lahey Clinic Northshore, Peabody, Massachusetts, they evaluated several relevant articles pertinent to androgen deficiency and vascular disease, and determined that a relationship did exist between androgen deficiency and CVD.

“In view of the emerging evidence suggesting that androgen deficiency is a risk factor for CVD, androgen replacement therapy could potentially reduce CVD risk in hypogonadal men. It should be emphasized, however, that androgen replacement therapy should be done with very thorough and careful monitoring for prostate diseases,” said lead author Dr. Abdulmaged M. Traish, a professor of biochemistry and urology as well as the director of Laboratories for Sexual Medicine, Institute for Sexual Medicine at BUSM.

To further elucidate the role of androgen deficiency in vascular disease, the researchers recommend large, long-term, double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled clinical trials be carried out.

“Although challenges might lie ahead regarding how data from such clinical trials are to be properly interpreted and whether long-term safety can be established with T supplementation, these findings warrant definite investigation into the beneficial role that androgens might have in preventing cardiovascular risk in androgen-deficient men,” added Traish.

PLEASE NOTE OTHER POSTS ON “HORMONES” AND “BIO IDENTICAL HORMONES”

Introducing – DHEA

Other names: dehydroepiandrosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a steroid hormone that’s produced by the adrenal glands. The body converts DHEA to male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone.

DHEA levels typically peak by the time people are in their 20s and decline with age, which is why there has been considerable interest in DHEA and its role in aging. In fact, DHEA supplements have been touted as an anti-aging hormone because lower levels of DHEA have been reported in some people with type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, AIDS, adrenal insufficiency, kidney disease and anorexia. Certain medications may also deplete DHEA, such as corticosteroids, insulin, opiates and danazol.

DHEA is manufactured naturally in the body, but DHEA supplements can also be made in a laboratory from a substance called diosgenin, found in soybeans and wild yam. Wild yam cream and supplements are often promoted as being a natural source of DHEA, but the body can’t convert wild yam to DHEA on its own — the conversion must be done in a laboratory.

DHEA supplements were taken off the U.S. market in 1985 because of concerns about false claims regarding its benefits. It became available only by prescription but was reintroduced as a nutritional supplement after the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act was passed in 1994.

Why Do People Use DHEA Supplements

DHEA is used as an “anti-aging” hormone and for conditions in which DHEA levels have been found to be low, however, there are very few large, well-designed human studies showing that it’s effective.

    * Aging

      The gradual decline in the body’s DHEA levels correlate with loss of muscle mass, decreased bone density, and a decline in immune function. A study by Mayo Clinic researchers, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, looked at the effect of DHEA supplements on markers of aging, such as muscle mass, muscle strength, fat mass, peak endurance and glucose tolerance in older men and women.

      The study involved 87 men and 57 women. At the end of the two-year study, participants showed no significant change in any of the markers. It’s one of the largest and longest studies on DHEA and human aging to date.

    * Depression

      Clinical trials examining the effect of DHEA for depression suggest that DHEA temporarily improves symptoms of depression compared to a placebo. For example, a study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health investigated the use of DHEA by 46 people between the ages of 40 and 65 with major or minor depression. They took DHEA for six weeks (90 mg a day for three weeks followed by 450 mg a day for three weeks) or a placebo.

      Twenty three people improved while taking DHEA, compared to 13 who responded while taking the placebo. After six weeks, 14 out of 15 people taking the placebo were still depressed, compared to eight out of 14 people taking DHEA.

      Studies on lasting mood changes, however, have had inconsistent results. More research is needed before DHEA should be used for depression, however, because the long-term effects aren’t known.

    * Menopause

      One small study found that 25 mg a day of DHEA may reduce symptoms of menopause. Levels of other hormones were affected, however, which may have adverse effects.

    * Obesity

      In animal studies, DHEA has shown some promise in reducing genetic or diet-induced obesity. A study funded by the National Institutes of Health looked at the effect of DHEA (50 mg a day) compared to a placebo for weight loss in 56 overweight adults between the ages of 65 and 78. At the end of the six month study, people taking DHEA lost an average of two pounds compared to the people taking the placebo, who gained just over one pound.

      Although overall weight loss was minimal, results were more promising when fat loss around the abdomen was assessed. After six months, women taking DHEA lost 10% of their abdominal fat and men lost 7%.

      A large study involving 942 men in the Massachusetts Male Aging Study looked at men between the ages of 40 and 70, first in 1987 to 1989 and then again in 1995 to 1997. Researchers found that fat around the abdomen (called central obesity) was associated with lower DHEA levels.

      Although these are promising preliminary results, until we have more research on the safety and effectiveness of DHEA, researchers recommend trying other, more proven methods for weight loss.

    * Osteoporosis

      Supplementation with DHEA has been studied to increase bone density. It is usually taken by mouth or applied as a cream to the inner thigh. DHEA hasn’t been found to be helpful for younger women and men. Some evidence sugests it might be helpful for osteoporosis in older women. More research is needed.

    * Sexual Dysfunction

      Studies on the use of DHEA for erectile dysfunction in men and sexual function in men and women have been inconsistent. A one-year study involving 280 men and women found that 50 mg a day of DHEA improved libido in women over 70 but not in younger women or men. Other studies have been mixed — most have been too small to be meaningful or the treatment duration has been too short.

    * Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

      Scientific evidence indicates that DHEA may enhance mental function and increase bone mass in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), an autoimmune disease affecting connective tissue. In fact, synthetic DHEA called prasterone (Prestara) is under investigation for the treatment of this condition and the prevention of loss of bone mineral density. The FDA has granted orphan drug status for the prevention of loss of bone mineral density in SLE patients taking corticosteroids.

    * Adrenal Insufficiency

      Adrenal insufficiency is a condition involving low levels of adrenal gland hormones. Several studies suggest DHEA supplements may improve well-being, quality of life, and sex drive in people with adrenal insufficiency. In 2003, prasterone (Fidelin) received orphan drug status for adrenal insufficiency. Adrenal insufficiency can only be diagnosed by a doctor. It can be a medical emergency and should be properly diagnosed and treated by a qualified health professional.

    * Other Conditions DHEA has also been explored for many other conditions, such as:

      Alzheimer’s disease

      Chronic fatigue syndrome

      Crohn’s disease

      Heart disease

      Schizophrenia

      Sjogren’s syndrome

DHEA Side Effects and Safety

DHEA is a hormone, so it should only be used under the supervision of a qualified health practitioner. Pregnant or nursing women or children should not use DHEA. There have been no studies on the long-term safety of DHEA.

One of the more common side effects of DHEA supplements is acne. Other side effects include abdominal pain, hair loss, insomnia, nasal congestion, fatigue, oily skin, rapid or irregular heartbeats, or heart palpitations.

DHEA supplements may alter liver function, so people with liver disease shouldn’t use DHEA. People with mood disorders such as depression should only use DHEA under the supervision of their health-care provider, as DHEA supplementation may worsen mood. High levels of the body’s natural DHEA has been associated with psychotic disorders, so people with or at risk for psychotic disorders shouldn’t use DHEA unless under the supervision of their health-care provider.

Since DHEA supplements may influence the production of male and female hormones, acne, greasy skin, facial hair growth, hair loss, weight gain around the waist, a deepening of the voice and other signs of masculinization may occur in women. Men may develop high blood pressure, male pattern baldness, aggressiveness, breast enlargement (gynecomastia), breast tenderness and shrinkage of the testicles.

DHEA supplements may also affect the levels of other hormones, such as insulin and thyroid hormone, and affect cholesterol levels. People with diabetes or hyperglycemia, high cholesterol, thyroid disorders, Cushing’s disease or other hormonal disorders should be particularly cautious.

DHEA supplements may alter the levels estrogen and testosterone, which can theoretically increase the risk of hormone-sensitive cancers such as breast, prostate and ovarian cancer. It’s also not known whether DHEA supplements may inhibit the body’s ability to make DHEA.

People taking DHEA supplements may be more likely to develop blood clots, so people with clotting disorders, heart disease and those with a history of stroke should avoid DHEA supplements.

Possible Drug Interactions

Theoretically, DHEA supplements may interfere with the effectiveness of antipsychotic drugs, such as chlorpromazine (Thorazine), fluphenazine (Prolixin) and prochlorperazine (Compazine).

DHEA supplements may increase the effects of the following medications:

    * AZT (Zidovudine) — HIV medication

    * Barbiturates — medications for sleep disorders

    * Cisplatic — cancer medication

    * Estrogen and oral contraceptives

    * Testosterone

    * Benzodiazepines, such as triazolam (Halcion), alprazolam and dizaepam for anxiety and sleeping disorders

DHEA may interact in unpredicatable ways with the following drugs:

    * Corticosteroids, such as prednisone, beclomethasone (Beconase, Vancenase), dexamethasone, hydrocortisone, prescribed for inflammatory conditions such as arthritis, asthma and skin infections.

    * Insulin

    * Lithium

    * Prescription drugs that are broken down by the same liver enzymes, such as: allergy medication such as fexofenadine (Allegra), antifungal drugs such as itraconazole (Sporanox) and ketoconazole (Nizoral), cancer medications such as etoposide (VePesid), paclitaxel (Taxol), vinblastine, or vincristine, cholesterol medications, such as lovastatin, and oral contraceptives.