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Dangers of Declining DHEA

What is DHEA? DHEA (short for dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced mostly in the adrenal glands. DHEA is a critical hormones that influences several other important hormones, including serotonin, testosterone, progesterone, and estrogen, and it has the ability to be transformed into almost any other hormones as the body needs it.

Every tissue of the human body has enzymes necessary for the metabolism of DHEA, and DHEA is produced in the adrenals, ovaries, testicles, and the brain which contains xix times the amount of any other tissue and organ.

Supplementation with DHEA rapidly raises levels of DHEA in the blood come in two forms, oral or cream/topical that absorb through skin.

The tremendous amount of DHEA present during youth and the fact that DHEA drops to near zero in all people just prior to death, has intrigued longevity reseachers for a long time. Will we prolong life an additional ten or twenty years if we take supplements of DHEA to maintain youthful levels? It could be possible, since studies show that an increase in blood levels of DHEA sulfate is associated with a 36% lower mortality rate from any cause.

By the time you reach 70, your DHEA levels are likely to be 75 to 80% lower. This is not something to take lightly, as large-scale studies show a correlation between low DHEA levels and increased risk of death in older men.  One study of more than 2600 men aged 69 to 81 demonstrated that men in the lowest 25% of DHEA levels were:

  • 51% more likely to die from any cause
  • 61%morelikely to die from cardiovascular disease
  • 67% more likely to die from ischemic heart disease (heart attacks) specifically

Surprisingly, the increased risk of dying was most pronounced in the younger members of this older male group (those less than 75.4 years old) whose risk of dying from cardiovascular disease was 164% greater in the low DHEA group compared to those with higher levels. This a stark reminder of the importance of having DHEA blood levels checked and initiating supplements early.

Further supporting the notion that DHEA supplementation should begin early in the course of aging is a study showing that, especially among the “oldest old”, the faster DHEA levels fall, the greater the risk of having cardiovascular disease of any kind.

A carefully designed 2010 study demonstrated that women are also vulnerable to the effects of lower DHEA levels. In that study, among women who were already at high risk for cardiovascular disease, those in the lowest one-third of DHEA levels had a significant 155% increase in the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease. Another study showed that women with the lowest 25% of levels of DHEA have a 41% increase in stroke risk. In addition, low DHEA-S levels in women have been found to correlate with significant increases in arterial wall thickness and reductions in blood flow.

Benefits of DHEA Supplementation

A growing body of evidence indicates that maintaining youthful DHEA levels in your blood is a good ways to fend off some of the most immediate threats to your longevity, namely the cardiovascular diseases that remain leading causes of death in the US.

According to one study, each standard deviation (about 34%) increase in DHEA levels in the blood produced an 18% decrease in the risk of having a cardiovascular event. This finding confirmed earlier work suggesting that higher DHEA-S levels are protective against cardiovascular disease in men, reducing the risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 37% to 55%.

By supplementing with DHEA, you can easily get your  levels back to youthful values; most people can achieve excellent levels with a daily 15 to 50 mg dose.

Let’s now examine how falling DHEA levels affect a number of the leading cardiovascular risk factors.