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In praise of Menopause. Part 2: How to deal with the cons of menopause and aging

The cons of menopause and aging

In part I, I listed the benefits of menopause, but let’s not ignore reality: menopause and aging change the body in ways that are not pleasant. I know there isn’t a remedy for every malady brought about by menopause (or aging); there isn’t. But there have been enough scientific advances to improve life and let you enjoy the pros.

Skin

First, let’s celebrate the definitive departure of acne. You may get a spot here and there, but that’s not acne. If you get too many, maybe check the ingredient lists of the products you put on your skin: coconut oil is a bad idea, and very occlusive creams and ointments, like those containing vaseline.

The first thing we lose as we start aging is the nutrition due to the skin. It no longer reaches the skin because other organs, like the heart and lungs, become priorities. There is also decreasing blood flow to the surface of the body. The result is “hungry skin,” with this vital organ missing the nutrition, vitamins, and growth factors required for cells to divide and produce the proteins, lipids, and more that the skin needs to do its job.  Skin Actives has been a pioneer in incorporating scientific advances into products that can slow down and even reverse the damage that aging does to the skin. It’s possible to improve the appearance of the skin because epidermal growth factor, keratinocyte growth factor, essential lipids, and lots more are absorbed by the skin, changing its biochemistry and physiology. It’s possible to improve the skin barrier, enhance resistance to infection, improve elasticity, and disarm reactive oxygen species.  Go for it!

Mucosas of many organs

We only notice our mucoses when they betray us: itchy nose, infected mouth, dry vagina, urethral inflammation. Aging brings frequent infections, itch, dryness, and discomfort. Aging also substantially affects the epithelium and the immune system, weakening protection against pathogens and frequent and prolonged inflammation.

The very young and very old are at increased risk of serious infections, including pneumonia. This may relate to changes in the immune system as young children have limited immunological memory, but for the old, the problems are immunosenescence and inflammation.

Vaginal mucosa aging accelerates with menopause, and the straightforward corrector is adding hormones locally in the form of topical products containing estrogen. For women who can’t use hormonal correction because of estrogen-responsive cancer, local application of a jellifying polysaccharide (like hyaluronic acid) and lipids will alleviate the problem. Keratinocyte growth factor and genistein may also help.

Feet

Find a good podiatrist for feet mangled by long years of stilettos and narrow-point shoes. It’s possible to identify what’s wrong, but you may find that the damage is extensive.  Although the damage may be irreversible, there are ways to stabilize the tendons and ligaments, giving them extra time to heal. Arthritis can be alleviated (look at CBD and how it can help).

Eyes

Dryness, cataracts, and other eye problems can range from nuisance to catastrophic. A lifetime of exposure to ROS* (radical oxygen species) has altered the proteins in the crystalline lens, and vision becomes blurred and colors distorted. We also lose flexibility in the muscles that adjust eyesight to distance. This is where medical advances have become more surprising. In a surgery lasting a few minutes, the damaged natural lens is replaced with an artificial lens that restores vision and color perception. Multiple products are available for eye dryness but beware of preservatives that can be allergenic or, in some instances, deleterious to the eye in a more basic way. You can always try sterile saline solution packed without preservatives.

Temperature regulation

Our bodies become less effective at controlling skin blood flow and generating internal heat. In addition, the layer of fat under our skin that acts as an insulator and helps to conserve body heat thins with age.

Slow healing

Most wounds will heal in the elderly, but the healing process is slower, with all phases of wound healing affected. The inflammatory response is decreased or delayed, as is the proliferative response. Here is where Skin Actives can greatly help with our products designed to help heal and correct scarring.

Hair loss. Eyelashes and eyebrows. Nails.

Hair graying and hair loss are two typical aging signs that highly affect quality of life. The hair is subject to intrinsic and extrinsic factors that influence hair follicle changes and clinically results in hair alterations such as graying and hair loss, which are commonly described in elderly patients. Hair loss may highly impact patients’ quality of life, increasing daily stress and reducing self-esteem.

Hair loss typically affects both men and women during aging, with an estimated percentage of balding after 65 years of age of over 40% for both sexes. Balding results from several pathogenetic factors, including changes in the pilosebaceous units, hair follicle injuries, and disruption of the normal hair cycle. Whatever the causes, hair loss is difficult to reverse. Skin Actives has special resources! We have keratinocyte growth factor (sHKGF), which, with the help of a full “diet supplement,” will provide viable hair follicles with the wherewithal to start producing hair again.

Eyelashes and eyebrows can also do with some extra help. As long as people keep following fads that damage pilosebaceous units, Skin Actives will be needed. Glues used to stick artificial eyelashes, plucking and shaving eyebrows, and mascaras that clog the pores are bad for you, and you don’t need to get to 60 to see that they are almost gone. Try to be cautious when following fads; remember that the people who sell you artificial eyelashes don’t care if your natural ones die.

Gingival recession (receding gums)

Receding gums are common but not risk-free; their frequency increases with age and bad teeth care. They can be corrected with invasive dental procedures (periodontal therapy and tooth extraction), but these costly therapies increase the incidence of ischemic stroke and myocardial infarctions. One option is using epidermal growth factor (shEGF) impregnated in collagen membranes.

Bone and muscle loss

Not every solution comes in the shape of an injection or a pill. To slow down and reverse muscle and bone loss, exercise is irreplaceable. Weight training also benefits the brain. Here is where a good trainer can make a big difference: train too hard, and you may damage weak muscles and ligaments.

Cancer

Cancer is mostly an illness of the aging body, with mutations affecting multiple genes responsible for regulating cell division. If anything, menopause is an antidote against some cancers, those that respond to hormones.

Striking advances in basic science spilling into medicine have altered our relationship to cancer. Cancer was the illness that in the not-so-distant past made people say “the C word” or “a long illness” to avoid saying the name. Now, thanks to multiple advances in basic science, which clarifies how life works, we can look at each cancer, characterize it, understand it, and try to slow it down or even cure it, depending on what is making cells divide uncontrollably. This is definitely applied science but it came not from “the war on cancer” but from hard work by scientists at the very basic level.

 

The “take-home lesson”? The aches and pains that our parents had to accept as part of getting old can not be addressed, one by one, to make life better and live to the full, making us better friends, grandparents and workers.

References

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Ligon MM, Joshi CS, Fashemi BE, Salazar AM, Mysorekar IU. (2023) Effects of aging on urinary tract epithelial homeostasis and immunity. Dev Biol. 493:29-39. doi: 10.1016/j.ydbio.2022.11.003. Epub 2022 Nov 8. PMID: 36368522.

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