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Effects of Aging on the Endocrine System

By

John E. Morley

, MB, BCh, Saint Louis University School of Medicine

Last full review/revision Apr 2019| Content last modified Apr 2019
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The endocrine system consists of a group of glands and organs that regulate and control various body functions by producing and secreting hormones. Hormones are chemical substances that affect the activity of another part of the body. In essence, hormones serve as messengers, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body. (See also Endocrine Glands Endocrine Glands The endocrine system consists of a group of glands and organs that regulate and control various body functions by producing and secreting hormones. Hormones are chemical substances that affect... read more .)

Some hormones that decrease include

In women, the decline in estrogen levels leads to menopause Menopause Menopause is the permanent end of menstrual periods and thus of fertility. For up to several years before and just after menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate widely, periods become irregular... read more Menopause . In men, testosterone levels usually decrease gradually. Decreased levels of growth hormone may lead to decreased muscle mass and strength. Decreased melatonin levels may play an important role in the loss of normal sleep-wake cycles (circadian rhythms) with aging.

Hormones that usually remain unchanged or only slightly decrease include

  • Cortisol

  • Insulin

  • Thyroid hormones

Hormones that may increase include

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone

  • Luteinizing hormone

  • Norepinephrine

  • Epinephrine, in the very old

  • Parathyroid hormone

Although it seems that hormone replacement therapy might be beneficial in older people with decreased function, such therapy generally does not appear to reverse aging or prolong life and, in some cases (such as estrogen replacement in some older women), is potentially harmful. However, ongoing research is examining the beneficial effects of providing some hormones to older people. Estrogen replacement in older women is discussed in Menopause Hormone Therapy for Menopause Menopause is the permanent end of menstrual periods and thus of fertility. For up to several years before and just after menopause, estrogen levels fluctuate widely, periods become irregular... read more Hormone Therapy for Menopause . Testosterone replacement in older men is discussed in Effects of Aging on the Male Reproductive System Effects of Aging on the Male Reproductive System It is not clear whether aging itself or the disorders associated with aging cause the gradual changes that occur in men's sexual functioning. The frequency, duration, and rigidity of erections... read more .

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Hypoglycemia
Hypoglycemia is an abnormally low level of sugar (glucose) in the blood. People with which of the following conditions are most likely to develop hypoglycemia?
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