Affects of aging on the body
Q Does aging affect the functioning of your thyroid?
The thyroid is a small, butterflyshaped gland located in the middle of the lower neck. It produces hormones that control metabolism, which are the chemical processes cells in the body perform to keep us alive.
It should come as no surprise that the thyroid gland often peters out as we get older. The thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) test checks to see if your thyroid is producing the right amount of hormone for your system. If the gland is making too much hormone, you get hyperthyroidism; if it makes too little, you get hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism is very common in people over 60 years of age; the incidence of it steadily increases with age.
The Thyroid Foundation of America recommends that people over 50 years old get a TSH test at least once every five years, and more often if there are symptoms. When thyroid disease is caught early, treatment can control the disorder even before the onset of symptoms The symptoms of hypothyroidism include: fatigue, intolerance to cold, constipation, forgetfulness, muscle cramps, hair loss, depression, weight gain, dry skin, hoarseness and mood swings.
Q How common is it for men to get enlarged breasts?
Breast enlargement in males is common. About 30 percent of older men have this condition, which can be caused by hormonal changes or simple weight gain.
When the usual balance of the female hormone estrogen and the male hormone testosterone in a man shifts, he can get “gynecomastia,” which is derived from two Greek words that mean “woman” and “breast.”
Estrogen controls female traits including the growth of breasts. Testosterone dictates male traits such as muscle mass and body hair. Males normally produce small quantities of estrogen to regulate bone density, sperm production and mood.
Gynecomastia can be caused by a health problem such as liver, kidney or thyroid diseases. And, this condition can also result from drinking alcohol or taking drugs such as steroids, marijuana, amphetamines and heroin. There are medications that can cause gynecomastia, too.
If you have enlarged breasts, see your doctor for a check-up. Enlarged breasts can be a symptom of breast cancer or a testicular tumor.
Q Do copper bracelets relieve arthritis pain?
There is no scientific evidence that copper bracelets do anything more than make a fashion statement. However, there is no proof that the bracelets don’t provide relief to arthritis sufferers.
Copper bracelets for arthritis have been around for a century or more. Many people swear that they work. Some doctors suspect that the positive reports are based upon symptoms going away by themselves.
Folk remedies like copper bracelets seem to be harmless. However, they often delay effective medical treatment, so these socalled “cures” are not completely benign.
Fred Cicetti is a freelance writer who specializes in health. He has been writing professionally since 1963. Before he began freelancing, he was a reporter and columnist for three daily newspapers in New Jersey. If you would like to ask a question, write to firstname.lastname@example.org.