By: Dr. Monica Carezani-Gavin
Diplomate, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine
Hot flashes, loss of libido, restless nights? Are all women destined to experience these symptoms associated with menopause? And what about men, do they experience a change of life as well?
The truth is, the human body was originally designed to reproduce offspring, but then die shortly thereafter. With people generally living longer–sometimes well into their 90s and 100s–quality of life issues have now come to the forefront. Recent studies of synthetic hormone replacement therapy (HRPT) have raised major health concerns with higher instances of cardiovascular disease and breast cancer being reported as well as other side effects among women on traditional HRPT therapies.
There is an alternative. Dr. Monica Carezani-Gavin, Diplomate of the American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and medical director of Azani Medical Spa of Bethlehem, has been offering Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) in her practice for 4 years and explains the difference in the two treatments.
“Hormone replacement does not just mean estrogen and progesterone for menopausal women. It means replacing all hormones: testosterone, DHEA, pregnenolone, cortisol, thyroid, etcetera, in both men and women,” says Dr. Gavin.
Unlike synthetic hormones, intentionally designed to be different so drug companies can patent them, bio-identical hormones are developed in a lab to produce an exact match for the hormone being replaced. A common example of a synthetic hormone is Prempro. Although used as a replacement for human progesterone, it is not bio-identical to human progesterone.
The method of administration of the hormone is also extremely important. “An oral delivery of estrogen is not the natural way, it gets converted by the liver into unhealthy by-products,” says Gavin.
“The Women’s Health Initiative was a research study conducted in the U.S. in menopausal women giving them horse estrogen and progesterone by mouth,” explains Gavin. “The study did show an increased risk of cardiovascular disease as well as cancer.”
The bulk of the studies on BHRT have been conducted in Europe. They confirm that with proper administration such as transdermal estradiol; there is a reduced risk of cardiovascular events, decreased risk of cancer, and a decreased rate of osteoporosis. The studies also confirm the up side of treatment–a noticeable improvement in the quality of life.
Among BHRT’s biggest supporters is television icon Suzanne Sommers.
“Sommers does a wonderful job explaining all of this in her book Ageless, which in my opinion, everyone should read,” says Gavin. “Suzanne is a breast cancer survivor and she has chosen to be on bio-identical hormone replacement for the past seven or so years.”
Another difference in the therapies is the benefits gained by males who participate in BHRT treatment. “About 30% the patients I currently treat are men,” says Dr. Gavin. “Men are truly suffering, just like women, but they do it quietly,” explains Gavin. “I get a tremendous amount of satisfaction from helping my male patients. They feel ignored and when they have a medical practitioner in their corner they truly feel heard, and have their concerns taken seriously. They don’t get the standard, ‘Well, you’re just getting old.'”
It’s a fact of life that as we age all of our hormone levels decline. Dr. Gavin says we don’t just have to accept it and do nothing. “The goal of anti-aging medicine is to remain as vital and healthy as we possibly can by replacing all of our hormones to normal youthful levels–the levels we had when we were in our 30s.”
Monica Carezani-Gavin, M.D.