Maintaining harmony as you age— Learn how to manage your hormones and your stress level

By Etta Hornsteiner
elderly man playing harp-managing hormones and stress

Sometimes aging brings on its own stresses as hormones change. Consider weight gain: menopause in women and andropause in men can trigger it. And the condition can be worsened if stress is present.  Why? When you experience stress at the same time your body is undergoing biological change, the discord can be manifested in weight gain. Therefore, managing your hormones and stress level is important to maintaining a healthy weight. And a healthy weight is an essential part of harmony.

Harmony is another word for balance. In music, harmony means the sound of two or more notes that are heard simultaneously. You may not be able to control some of the changes your body will go through and you may not be able to avoid some stressors in life as you age, but you might be able to control how you play these “instruments”. In other words, you might be able to create harmony in your life by managing your hormones and stress level.

Control the hormone cortisol

Cortisol is known as the “stress hormone”, but its function involves more than responding to stress. It helps regulate energy, metabolism, body temperature, blood pressure, and memory. When you are exposed to stress for a prolonged period, cortisol levels increase in the blood. High cortisol levels in the blood cause the body to store fat, particularly around the waistline.

Fat around the waistline is a health risk. A waistline measuring more than 35 inches in women and more than 40 inches in men put the body at risk for heart disease and diabetes.

Stresses on the job and at home are common. But as we grow older and closer to retirement, new stressors may arise, such as health issues, fear of the future, or death of a loved one.

These stressors, if not managed effectively, can cause further disharmony in the body in the form of weight gain and other illnesses.

How to stay in tune with life:

Attend church. A 2017 study showed that church attendance reduced stress. Churchgoers had a lower stress level than those who did not attend church.

Practice mindfulness. Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is a group program that was developed by Jon Kabat-Zinn in the 1970s to treat patients struggling with life’s difficulties and physical and/or mental illness (Kabat-Zinn, 2013). Although it was initially created to aid hospital patients, it has wide applicability and has been used by a broad range of people from all walks of life. Try these mindfulness exercises.

Hike. Take a hike in the woods. Sometimes vigorous exercise can cause the body to produce more cortisol. Additionally, nature has a way of slowing you down and relaxing tense muscles.

Try some Adaptogens. These are herbs that help your body to adapt to changing needs by restoring normal physiological functioning and reducing stress and fatigue. Some of the most commonly used adaptogens are ashwagndha, ginseng, rhodiola rosea, maca root, eleuthero, astragalus, and licorice.

 Control the hormone insulin

Insulin regulates blood sugar and it also signals to the body to store energy for use in the form of fat. When you eat a meal, the pancreas releases the hormone insulin to reduce the amount of sugar that is now in the blood. This sugar in the form of glucose is stored in the muscles, liver and the fat cells. The primary trigger for excess insulin is a diet high in sugar and processed carbohydrates. This type of diet causes weight gain.

How to stay in tune with life:

Choose a plant-based diet. Plant-based diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are healthy. It includes healthy carbs and fats. However, eat less carbs and more healthy fats in order to control blood sugar levels.

Try Ketogenic diet. The ketogenic diet, which is a high fat, low carb diet, and the latest diet on the block, has had positive weight-loss results. The ketogenic diet can benefit the elderly. However, make sure you talk to your doctor or your care coordinator/wellness coach about making any dietary changes.

Exercise. Exercise has been shown to help stabilize blood sugar and reduce insulin resistance.

 Sleep at night

Sleep is crucial to balancing hormones—cortisol, estrogen, and testosterone—especially during biological changes of life.  First, you should try to sleep only at night and not during the day; though a short nap has been proven to be beneficial.  “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and bodies together.” [i] No matter what changes you make or supplements you take, your body can not harmonize with life unless it receives adequate amounts of sleep and rest. The body needs time to carry out its repair and renewal processes so that it can work effectively.

Hormones and Balance website lists 6 reasons why sleep is the key that helps in creating harmony in your life as you age:.

  • Your body repairs and renews cells during sleep.

  • Your liver does most of the detoxification during sleep—between 1 a.m. and 3 a.m. Being awake compromises this function.

  • Hormone and neurotransmitter regulation happen during sleep. Poor sleep can cause 15% less leptin (which makes you feel full and not hungry) and 20% more ghrelin (which makes you hungrier). This means it is easier to lose weight when you sleep more.

  • We attain stable blood sugar balance after a good night’s sleep. When we do not, we crave sugar, carbohydrates, and coffee in the morning. After only four to six hours of sleep, your body finds it harder to stabilize blood sugars, shows research from the University of Chicago. Meanwhile, your fatty acids in the blood go up. The end result? Increased risk of elevated blood sugars, weight gain and diabetes type 2.

  • Adrenals repair during sleep. Overactive adrenals overproduce cortisol, which can cause an array of health issues.

When the body is in an imbalanced state, weight gain occurs, and weight loss is difficult. It is important to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life in order to ward off illnesses and diseases. Your quality of sleep holds your health in balance. Without adequate amount of sleep, the cortisol hormone increases, affecting all other hormones. Sleep will also affect your food cravings. So, you may find it more challenging to eat healthily when you’ve had insufficient sleep, because your body will want quick energy in the form of processed foods, which are usually high in sugar.

How to stay in tune with life:

Sleep. Get 7-8 hours of sleep.

Sleep-promoting herbs. Try these herbs that can promote sleep.

Block out artificial light.  Blue light from your phone, digital clock, computer can reduce melatonin, which is needed to promote sleep.

Get some sun. Natural light triggers the hormone melatonin which is needed to regulate sleep.

Conclusion:

Take time to tune inward—to get in touch with your inner being. Self-care involves being aware of the changes, embracing the changes and learning how to manage the changes. You are designed to be resilient so that you can continue to thrive in life and make music as you age. Learn to manage your hormones and stress level so that you can feel the rhythm of life.

 

1 English dramatist born 1572 and died 1632.

 

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