Article at a Glance
- Energy levels, sex drive, stress, weight maintenance, sleep, and metabolism are all affected by hormones.
- Even in your thirties, age-related hormonal changes can start to manifest as noticeable symptoms.
- There are evidence-backed steps you can take to mitigate these age-associated hormonal alterations.
The 30’s are a time when the aging process starts to rear its ugly head for many of us. Maybe you’re feeling less athletic, more tired, or are having a harder time putting on muscle or losing weight. Often, the symptoms that start popping up around this decade are related to hormonal changes, which can begin to have a subtle effect in your thirties.
Knowing what hormonal fluctuations you can expect and their associated symptoms can help you anticipate the changes and take research-backed action to mitigate them.
The Aging Endocrine System
The endocrine system is a group of organs and glands in the body that releases messengers called hormones. These hormones travel through the blood and tell organs what to do and when to do it. They regulate functions such as sleep, digestion, immune response, and mood regulation.
Hormones change with age, inducing symptoms like mood changes, reduced libido, fatigue, weight gain, anxiety, and depression. Let’s take a look at which hormonal changes a man in his 30’s may be experiencing, what effects those changes might be causing, and what research-backed methods may help mitigate those effects.
Between your 30’s and 40’s, testosterone levels start to drop at a rate of 1%-2% every year [R, R]. Besides age, factors like genetics and body composition can influence the rate of decline, so this estimated percentage may differ amongst individuals [R, R].
Low testosterone levels are linked to a variety of different symptoms and complications, such as reduced sex drive, erectile dysfunction, increased fat, loss of muscle mass, low bone density, sleep issues, fatigue, diminished cognitive function, and depression [R].
Although declining testosterone levels are a normal part of aging, there are some promising ways to stave off this decrease. For example, decreasing weight, improving sleep, and reducing stress all contribute to an improvement in testosterone levels [R].
If your testosterone levels are below the norm, you can consult a health professional who may recommend testosterone replacement therapy. This can be administered in the form of injections, patches, or gels, and has been shown to significantly improve testosterone levels [R].
Leptin is a hormone involved in the maintenance of appetite, body weight, and energy balance. As we age, leptin levels and leptin sensitivity decrease, meaning the hormone can no longer perform its functions as effectively because cells don’t respond to it as well as they did previously [R, R].
There is conflicting research as to whether high or low levels of leptin are ideal. Low levels, as seen in leptin-deficient individuals, are associated with obesity, while high levels are associated with leptin insensitivity, and autoimmune disease [R, R].
Optimization of leptin function, therefore, lies in maintaining the body’s sensitivity to it. A high-protein diet significantly improves leptin sensitivity [R]. Studies also show that exercise can partially reverse leptin resistance [R, R].
Levels of adiponectin increase with age, which may seem beneficial at first glance [R]. However, high levels of the hormone are linked to a higher risk for a heart condition called atrial fibrillation [R]. Increased levels of adiponectin were also found to increase the risk of death from heart disease [R]. Furthermore, high levels of adiponectin are associated with increased appetite, which may be undesirable for individuals on a weight-loss mission [R].
Researchers suggest that supplementing with α-linolenic acid (found in flaxseed oil) for eight weeks may lower adiponectin levels [R].
Dopamine is a messenger that acts on the brain and plays a role in several functions such as motivation, motor control, arousal, and reward. It is often referred to as the “feel good” hormone and it’s crucial for optimal cognitive functioning [R,R].
Starting in early adulthood, dopamine levels decline at a rate of 10% per decade and contribute to age-associated cognitive decline [R].
Ways to improve dopamine levels are meditation and massage therapy. A study done in 2002 found that being in a meditative state induced a 65% increase in dopamine production [R]. Massage therapy was also found to increase dopamine by 31% [R].
Insulin is a hormone that acts primarily to signal cells to take up glucose from the blood. The ability for cells to respond to this signal is called insulin sensitivity, which declines with age. Because insulin is an essential hormone for metabolism of glucose, a drop in insulin sensitivity is associated with glucose intolerance, and ultimately diabetes [R].
BMI is the strongest predictor of insulin resistance in middle-aged men, so to improve insulin sensitivity and overcome the age-associated decrease, research suggests incorporating weight loss, aerobic exercise, and resistance training to your lifestyle [R] [R] [R].
Cortisol is a key stress hormone involved in the “fight-or-flight response”. Both physical and psychological stress induce the production of cortisol, which has several effects, including the increase of glucose production and modulation of the immune system [R, R]. Its aim is to prepare the body for any attack that might come from the perceived stressful setting by providing energy (through glucose metabolism) and by preparing the immune system for potential injury or infection.
Mean cortisol levels increase with age [R]. High levels of cortisol are associated with impaired memory, learning, sleep, sexual function, as well as a higher risk for osteoporosis development [R, R, R, R, R].
Because cortisol is a hormone that responds to stress, ways to control its levels are often related to stress-management [R]. Mindfulness meditation, laughter, and whole-body cryotherapy are effective in significantly decreasing cortisol levels [R, R, R]. Furthermore, fish oil, ashwagandha and rhodiola rosea supplements can significantly reduce cortisol [R, R, R].
Your 30’s are a great time to start understanding how your endocrine system changes as you age and proactively implementing lifestyle modifications to take control. You can start by tracking your hormone levels using self-quantification techniques.
You can also browse through our directory for health and longevity clinics to find the right place to help manage your hormones as you age.
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