Hormones are chemicals that the body needs to maintain healthy functioning. They are messengers that tell certain cells and organs when to perform certain things. They coordinate processes and regulate functions like mood, growth, metabolism, sleep, hunger, sexual reproduction, and more.
Hormones are controlled by the endocrine system in the body. It’s made up of all these chemical hormones and the organs and tissues that produce them. In the brain, the hypothalamus receives messages about which hormones are needed and sends these messages to the pituitary gland, which either produces the required hormone itself or tells the necessary organs to start increasing or decreasing the production of that specific hormone.
Typically, when someone thinks of hormones, they picture the two we hear the most about – oestrogen and testosterone. While these are incredibly important, there are more than 50 different human hormones, each with its own purpose. The endocrine system controls many of these hormones, and in turn, each of the hormones is responsible for different things at different times in life.
The following article will go into detail about how men’s hormones change at different life stages, along with what happens in the body with these changes.
From the moment a child is born, their brain and body are watching, regulating, and balancing hormones to maintain regular function and growth.
One of the most important hormones for a child is growth hormone. Too much or too little of this hormone can result in early or delayed puberty, each presenting its own health challenges.
Growth hormone is responsible for the growth of bones and other tissues. It’s important for development all the way into adulthood, and continues to contribute to well-being after final height has been reached and development is considered complete.
The thyroid hormones also contribute to the development of young brains, and are responsible for regulating your heart rate, blood pressure, energy level, and how warm or cold you feel. Issues with the thyroid and thyroid hormones can relate to many other issues in the body, and any concerns should be discussed with a medical professional.
As children, boys don’t yet have as much testosterone as when they start to go through puberty. Their bodies are focused on the development of strong, healthy systems before focusing on reproduction.
Adolescence and teenagehood
Teenagehood is known for the stage of puberty. In girls, it can start as early as age 7 and as late as 13, but in boys, puberty starts around ages 9 to 14.
This is when the famous increase of the “male” sex hormone testosterone occurs, changing boys’ secondary sexual characteristics and preparing their bodies for adult life. This includes the growth of the penis, scrotum, and testes, deepening of the voice, and development of facial and body hair.
Throughout this period, testosterone levels in boys can increase up to ten times what it was in their childhood. Their testosterone levels peak around ages 18-19, level off, and then will slowly start to decrease as they continue into and beyond adulthood.
Oestrogen, the “female” sex hormone, is also important for teenage boys. All three of the sex hormones (oestrogen, progesterone, and testosterone) work together to regulate emotions. During puberty, these hormones are all re-balancing themselves, which contributes to the fluctuations in mood and emotions throughout teenagehood.
As men reach adulthood, many hormone levels have stabilised and are now successfully regulating all the necessary bodily functions.
Men reach their peak levels of testosterone already by age 20, and peak levels of growth hormone by age 25. This means men have reached their peak muscle mass, bone density, and other areas of development.
The production of these hormones starts to decrease a little as the years go by. Testosterone decreases at a rate of about 1% per year after the age of 30, while growth hormone decreases at a rate of about 2-5% every five years after its peak in the early 20s.
With puberty over, men might start paying more attention to more hormones that affect their lives and wellbeing. One of these is cortisol, known as the “stress hormone.” It’s also responsible for things like metabolism and immunity responses. Too much cortisol can affect a man’s moods, weight, blood pressure, and even risk for osteoporosis. It’s also been linked to mental health concerns like anxiety and depression.
Another hormone that men may want to pay attention to at this stage is melatonin. Melatonin is responsible for regulating sleep cycles, also known as a circadian rhythm. It’s the hormone released when it gets dark to make you tired. Some people who have trouble sleeping often learn about melatonin and how to stimulate production in the evening to improve their quality of life.
Interestingly, women are not the only ones who go through hormone changes during pregnancy. The latest research has demonstrated that men also go through hormonal changes alongside his partner.
It’s suggested that men who are becoming fathers for the first time show lower levels of testosterone than their counterparts with no children. Since this is new research, it can’t be suggested yet as to why this happens, but it may have something to do with the reduced aggression and lowered sexual libido that comes with reduced testosterone.
As men reach the middle of their lives, some hormones are expected to change once again. Some of these include aldosterone and growth hormone.
Aldosterone is a hormone that works to regular blood pressure in the body through the effects of varying salt levels in the blood. A decrease in aldosterone as a middle-aged adult leads to drops in blood pressure and lightheadedness after sudden movements.
The production of growth hormone also slowly decreases over time, which isn’t surprising considering men have already reached maturity. Reductions of growth hormone contribute to losses of muscle and bone mass. It’s also associated with increased fat around the midsection.
Older men have much lower testosterone levels than young adult men. It’s difficult to define what normal levels of testosterone are for older men as their testosterone levels have been decreasing for decades, and there are other factors besides age that affect testosterone.
These much lower levels of testosterone mean men at this age don’t produce nearly as much sperm, and the sperm they do produce is much lower quality. This is the biggest reason that men’s fertility drops with age.
Another hormone group that men should understand as they approach senior life is glucocorticoids. This group of hormones controls how the body metabolises glucose, protein, and fat. Overall they work in anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy roles, something aging men need to pay attention to. Excess glucocorticoids can affect memory, cognition, and even sleep cycles. If levels are too high for too long, they can impair a man’s ability to recover from a stressful event.
Insulin levels should also be monitored as men age. The human body doesn’t process glucose as efficiently in later years, and insulin is the hormone responsible for helping the body turn glucose into energy, as well as other metabolic processes.
As older men produce less insulin, they’re also less likely to tolerate as much glucose in their system. When the body doesn’t have enough insulin for the body’s needs, glucose builds up, and can progress to diabetes. This is why monitoring for low or high blood sugar can be crucial in these later years.
Being aware of the hormones in your body is a great step in learning about how to take care of yourself at different stages of life. If you have any questions or concerns about hormones and how they affect men, consider booking an appointment with one of our urologists to learn more.