By Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D., F.A.C.C., F.A.C.N., C.N.S., C.B.T.
A low level of the adrenal sex hormone dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) predicts a greater risk of coronary heart disease in elderly men, according to a 2014 Swedish study. DHEA and specifically its sulfate form DHEA-S is the most abundant steroid hormone in human blood, utilized to make estrogen and testosterone. However, production declines dramatically with age. A great amount of research has been done on the actions of DHEA-S and blood vessels and metabolism.
In this study, the researchers followed more than 2,000 men, aged 69 to 81, for 5 years, and determined that those with the lowest blood levels of DHEA-S had a statistically significant increase in risk of coronary heart disease, hospitalization, heart attack, and unstable angina, compared to individuals with the highest level.
My Viewpoint: Most men, and their doctors, aren’t paying attention to this one. I regard DHEA-S as an unheralded major heart health booster. In fact, research shows that depleted DHEA-S is a more accurate predicator of heart attacks than elevated cholesterol. The influence of DHEA-S on coronary artery disease risk could be related directly to a number of important functions: reduction of inflammation and oxidative stress, a protective benefit for the sensitive inner lining of arteries; and improved insulin sensitivity, blood flow, immunity, and physical strength.
What This Means to You: DHEA has been in and out of the spotlight; however, it should take center stage. In 1995, a whole issue of the New York Academy of Sciences was dedicated to the effect of DHEA on aging. One study in that issue showed that the DHEA level correlates with the degree of arterial disease in both men and women. It’s interesting to note the relationship between DHEA and cortisol, the stress hormone. When cortisol goes up, as a result of stress, DHEA drops. This is another way in which stress affects the cardiovascular system.
My Recommendation: DHEA is available as a nutritional supplement, but it’s best to address DHEA under the guidance of an anti-aging doctor because it is a hormone and may interact with certain medications. You can also raise your DHEA level through meditation, according to a 1992 study done with Transcendental Meditation practitioners. In that study, researchers found levels of DHEA in meditating women and older men to be the equivalent of non-meditators who were five to ten years younger, suggesting a braking effect by meditation on the age-related deterioration of DHEA production by the adrenal gland.
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