Dr. Erika Schwartz, M.D., is a leading national expert in wellness, disease prevention, and bioidentical hormone therapies. Dr. Schwartz has written four best-selling books, testified before Congress, hosted her own PBS special on bioidentical hormones, and is a frequent guest on network TV shows.

Dr. Erika Schwartz, M.D

Take Hormones to Stay Young and Healthy

Friday, 24 Jan 2014 02:25 PM

By Erika Schwartz, M.D

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Hormones are great for you. When you have hormones in your body and you are young, you don’t get fat or sick, or have problems with sleep or sex drive. It is the aging process that robs us of hormones and youthful vim and vigor. So you need hormones to stay young and healthy.
 
As we age, our bodies produce fewer hormones, and that makes losing belly fat difficult despite dieting and exercise. So I recommend taking human identical hormones, also known as bioidentical hormones, which are available only through prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner in compounded and FDA-approved products.
 
Some of you likely have read about hormones causing breast cancer, or have been scared by doctors who oppose prescribing them. The truth is having no hormones is the highest risk for cancer.
 
Nonhuman identical hormones like Premarin, which seemed to raise breast cancer risk in a large National Institutes of Health study, may do so minimally, but that is still better than the risk from having no hormones at all.
 
The bioidentical hormones estradiol, progesterone, and testosterone have been studied for more than five decades and appear to be safer, and risk of breast cancer associated with them is lower than with other hormone therapies, including birth control pills.
 
In fact, the biggest problem women have as they age is the increased incidence of heart disease, which kills about 350,000 of us over age 50 a year in the United States. About 30,000 American women die annually of breast cancer or its treatment side effects, so I consider taking bioidentical hormones a wonderful, safe option to protect us from aging and getting sick — not something to be feared.
 
Before you decide to take bioidentical hormones, you should know what to expect and what physicians who specialize in the use of hormones need to do to decide how best to treat you. Don’t try to take hormones on your own. With the help of a knowledgeable doctor, you will get the results you want.
 
You’ll need:
 
•    A thorough medical evaluation, including your medical history, by a doctor interested in developing a relationship with you.
 
•    A baseline measurement of body composition, including body mass index (BMI), fat, and basal metabolic rate. Biomarkers related to heart, brain, skin, and lungs will also be examined. All this testing is done on noninvasive machines and takes about an hour.
 
•    Blood tests to measure hormones, not saliva testing. We really don’t know what saliva testing means so you would be wasting your money. Because we do not usually have baseline tests for what your ideal hormone levels are, we use tests from the middle of your cycle if you are still menstruating. Once we find the ideal formulation for you, we keep your levels optimal by retesting.
 
Depending on their history and individual disease risk, some women will need to undergo a stress test, colonoscopy, uterine ultrasound (the thickness of the lining of the uterus is important in hormone therapy), and bone density exam (estrogen improves bone density better than any drug on the market).

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Erika Schwartz, M.D., is a leading national expert in wellness, disease prevention, and bioidentical hormone therapies. She is author of Dr. Erika’s Healthy Balance newsletter.
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