The Adrenal glands are located above the kidneys. The right adrenal gland is triangular shaped and the left is described as crescent shaped. They play an important role in the body as they regulate the flow of hormones in response to stress. They also have an influence on the functioning of the kidneys.
As you age, the adrenal glands do not function as efficiently and this can lead to age related problems. This article covers the problems caused by declining adrenal gland efficiency but let’s start by covering what they actually do.
What Do Adrenal Glands Do ?
The Adrenal glands release the hormones cortisol and epinephrine in response to stress. This is the classic “fight or flight” response that you probably heard about in school. It prepares the body to handle a stressful moment.
In this case, cortisol dulls the immune system so that if you sustain an injury the body keeps calm and carries on. Epinephrine makes the blood flow round the body quicker readying you to expend a sudden burst of energy – in other words, hit something or run away from it very quickly.
A person that lives a very stressful life has too much of these hormones flowing through his/her body for too long a time. This can ultimately lead to illnesses and disease.
For instance, you may have noticed that you pick up colds and flu when you are working long hours or work is more stressful. This is because your immune system has been compromised by the cortisol. A chronically compromised immune system can lead to more serious illnesses and diseases.
Conversely, the secretion of epinephrine makes the heart work harder. This can lead to higher blood pressure and possibly heart disease.
So in this case, although the adrenal glands help the body, if you live a chronically stressful life, they may ultimately harm you too. Not that’s it’s their fault. The takeaway from this is to minimize stress in your life – work related stress and everyday pressure. You can do this by changing what you do in your everyday life or, if you can’t makes these sorts of changes, have some stress reducing strategies in place. Take up meditation or yoga. Play sport. Exercise. Go to a day spa once a week. Do something that makes you happy ! Play with your pet cat.
What About Dehydroepiandrosterone (Or DHEA To It’s Friends!)
What a mouthful…lets just call it DHEA for this article. DHEA is another hormone created by the Adrenal glands. DHEA is sometimes referred to as a buffer to cortisol. It takes the edge off the effects of cortisol on the body.
As you age, the amount of DHEA secreted diminishes. It’s estimated that someone at the age of 65 will produce 20% less DHEA than a 30 year old.
So this means cortisol may cause more impact on the immune system as we age….and any associated problems that that causes.
Some research also suggests that supplementing natural DHEA as you age can also improve the condition of the skin and bone density. It is also thought to improve the libido in women. To this extent, some health care providers will advise DHEA supplementation as you get older.