Why do I have high blood pressure? Why do I have to take cholesterol medicine? I never had high cholesterol. Did my doctor just say that I was pre-diabetic? And why is my waist expanding as if someone has me hooked up to an air pump and I have no control over it? Why is everybody is getting on my last nerve?!
Does this conversation sound familiar? Are these the health issues you are now dealing with and you have no idea what is going on? Well, you are not alone and it's not completely your fault. In this blog, we are going to talk about one of the Big 3 hormones that turn into a bully as we age.
Estrogen, you can't be a woman without her and you don't quite feel like a woman when she starts being a bully. What do I mean? Well, let's dive right in.
From birth to adolescence women need estrogen to help develop breasts, hips, structures in the brain and give our skin its luminosity. As we continue our journey through adulthood Estrogen helps with temperature regulation, blood pressure control by way of influencing kidney function. Estrogen also helps with the integrity of the blood vessels which helps support the cardiovascular system (speak English? - It protects your heart). Estrogen even helps to regulate the way we metabolize the foods we break down into sugars.
If Estrogen was such an asset for women how did she turn into such a bully when we get older? Well, the simple answer is Estrogen likes to be in balance. That's right if there is too much or too little the system is at war.
As we age and the body stops making hormones at the levels it used to then the system gets out of balance. What do I mean by that? It means that estrogen can't be the helpful hormone it used to be and it starts betraying the system.
When the levels of estrogen are not as high as they used to be a lot of its protective mechanisms are no longer in place. For instance, the anti-inflammatory properties of estrogen are not as prominent. The body's delicate balance of bone reabsorption and absorption is no longer in hemostasis. Estrogen's ability to protect the brain from the debilitating process of harmful protein deposits is halted. Other regulatory systems become causalities as well. Estrogen's synergistic effect to help regulate temperature control is not as stable anymore.
I hear you saying,m Dr. LaKeischa, you have taken us to biology class again and we're following but we want to know how this looks on a daily basis. When my Estrogen is low what are the symptoms that will start raising their ugly heads.
What are the symptoms?
Breast tenderness (this is also a result of unmatched estrogen because of much lower progesterone)
Insulin resistance (can lead to pre-diabetes)
High cholesterol (usually new-onset)
Brain fog (feeling as if you have the beginning stages of dementia)
The skin has lost its luminosity and elasticity (your skin starts telling your age)
Temperature dysregulation (hot flashes, night sweats)
What do I do?
At this point, you may have checked off some of the symptoms in that list above. It can be a little intimidating thinking, well, now what? I want to remind you that although I am a doctor this blog post is not a substitution for you seeing your doctor. Having said that, if you think your symptoms are due to a hormone imbalance seek out a doctor who understands the importance of hormone balancing. Find a doctor who understands that even though the status quo is to see you less during this time in your life you need to be seen more. Seek out a doctor who is willing to participate in the conversation about your health with you and will not dismiss you.
There are a variety of tests in my book, The Other PMSTM that I recommend you ask your doctor to run. These are tests I run on my patients. The approach is multisystem a lot of times. What I mean by that is you can't just look to "fix" the estrogen numbers. You have to know the other systems estrogen can be affecting and anticipate and treat them if an imbalance blossoms in that system.
Whew! I know I just gave you a lot to digest but I'm here to help you glide and not slam into perimenopause and menopause. It's in starting these conversations that you get your voice back and you become empowered to be the CEO of your health and take back the reigns of your body.