I’m an Age Management & Hormone Optimization specialist physician who regularly recommends Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT), which means that in addition to the standard training of medical school, residency, and board certification (which most doctors go through), I’ve had years of additional training, education and advanced certification in this specialized field of medicine.
As a result, I can tell you there is a severe lack of knowledge and an overabundance of misconceptions about Age Management Medicine and hormone replacement therapy – not just by patients, but most most physicians themselves (even many endocrinologists)! It’s really quite shocking.
Here are four of the most important things your doctor may not know about this field:
1. Age Management Medicine isn’t a “fringe” field of medicine or a luxury service.
Instead, Age Management Medicine & Hormone Replacement Therapy is preventative medicine.
To feel and look your best as you age, you need a doctor who understands the complexity and fine details of the aging process and the many systems involved, particularly the endocrine (hormonal) system.
Unfortunately, many non-specialized doctors simply aren’t equipped to offer the best level of care in Age Management. Why? Because there are volumes and volumes of peer-reviewed research studies about hormones and aging, and almost none of it is taught in medical school. Even though the research I base my recommendations on is available in mainstream medical journals (The New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, Journal of Endocrinology, etc.), there’s simply too much information to take on if you’re not a specialist. So your primary doctor is simply not up to date or thoroughly knowledgeable. Often their conceptions – or more often – misconceptions come from the same sources you get yours: popular magazines, news headlines, etc.
On top of that, mainstream medicine is largely reactionary – it waits for something to go wrong, and then it fixes it. Age Management is preventative medicine (as well as reactionary). In other words, it seeks to keep you in a state of optimal health so that there’s nothing to fix. BHRT is the best treatment we currently have for maintaining quality of life and decreasing degeneration of your body as you age; it can relieve the signs and symptoms of, and prevent many of the diseases that come with, aging.
2. Men and women with higher levels of hormones have better health outcomes.
Patients with higher levels of testosterone, thyroid, DHEA, estrogen, progesterone, and other key hormones feel and look better and have lower incidence of virtually every chronic disease of aging. Most doctors rarely even check hormone levels…they just think it’s fine that your hormone levels may be falling (“You’re just getting old”). Or even worse, if they do, they often check the wrong form of the hormone or don’t know how to interpret the results. Despite the fact that they may be looking at the wrong form of the hormone altogether, they’ll likely just look to see if you’re in the “normal” lab range. But what they don’t realize is that if you’re higher than “normal for your age” for certain hormones (some hormones are optimal at lower levels), you’ll be healthier, feel more energetic and robust, and be less likely to get sick down the road.
Which leads me to my next point:
3. Normal is not enough.
Many of my patients have told me in their initial appointment that their primary care physician checked their testosterone or their thyroid or some other hormone and said the levels were normal. This is supposed to be a sign of health. But this is based on misconceptions of what normal lab ranges demonstrate. All that “normal” means is that the hormone level matches a sampling of the general population. Of course, the general population of the United States doesn’t have healthy hormone levels. In fact, as a culture many hormone levels have become increasingly out of whack over time. See for instance, the drastic decrease in testosterone levels in recent years.
In other words, “normal”doesn’t necessarily mean “healthy.”
But it’s even more complicated than that. Why? That brings us to my fourth and final point:
4. Standard hormone lab results don’t give a full picture, even if your hormone levels are high.
In order for a hormone to work, it has to attach to a receptor on the surface of your cell. As a result of this receptor-hormone interaction, changes inside the cell are initiated. These lead to more energy and strength, lower body fat, and more. Simply put, the hormone has to attach to a receptor to be turned on and go to work.
Often, as we age, these receptors become resistant to hormones, and as a result, we need more and more of a hormone for the reactions to take place. Which means your doctor can measure your hormone levels and see that they’re high – even at optimal numbers, not just “normal”ones -but if your receptors are resistant, you’re still not able to utilize the hormones!
As you can see, Age Management and Hormone Replacement is more than just a numbers game or simply giving you hormones to make you build muscles or increase your sex drive. It’s a complex interweaving of different factors and considerations that requires a doctor have the right education and perspective. And know the research! Just like you wouldn’t go to your Primary Care Physician to have a tooth pulled or for heart surgery, you shouldn’t go to your Primary Care Physician for Hormone Optimization. Not only will they not be best able to take care of you, their lack of knowledge may be causing you harm down the road.
Aging is a complex process, and hormones are a key part of it. To look and feel your best as you age, optimize your hormones, call The Body Well today at (323) 874-9355 and schedule an hormone evaluation. Or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.