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Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

What is DHEA, and what does it do?
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is another hormone in its own right and with its own responsibilities, along with being a pro-hormone, or precursor for the production of other hormones.

DHEA is secreted primarily by the adrenal glands.  Its main function is the shifting of body metabolism from a catabolic (breakdown and fat storage) metabolic state to the anabolic (fat breakdown and muscle mass building) metabolic state.  DHEA reduces cardiovascular risks by increasing lypolitic enzymes which then break down and eliminate visceral fat.  DHEA stimulates the immune system by activating T-cells, and prevents immune-senescence.  DHEA also plays a role in restoring sexual vitality, improves moods, decreases cholesterol and body fat.  DHEA improves memory, increases energy, slows the aging process and has anti-cancer properties by enhancing the immune system.  DHEA helps to prevent loss of sleep, atherosclerosis and osteoporosis (by increasing bone density and improving bone structure).  It improves mood and increases a sense of well-being.   

DHEA has also been shown to be a neurotransmitter, meaning it helps nerve and brain cells communicate with one another.  Insulin decreases the levels of DHEA which is one reason why hyper-insulinemia (too much insulin in the blood) increases vascular disease.  DHEA also inhibits platelet aggregations which reduces ischemia.

DHEA has been shown to slow the aging process in lab animals, although it has never been proven to "reverse" the aging process.

DHEA HRT is also known to improve the symptoms of Lupus, and it is there is currently pending FDA study for approval of this very function.

DHEA has also been shown to help adrenal exhaustion, along with pregnenolone and corticosteroid therapies.

Levels must be monitored.  Your doctor will check your levels of DHEA-Sulfate (DHEA-S).  Too high DHEA levels can cause acne in men and women, and hirsutism in women.  (in this case, a "peach fuzz"-like hairiness)  If side effects occur, blood levels are obtained.  If the levels are above the optimal range, the dose can be reduced.  If the levels are within the optimal rage, a specific "water pill" may be used to eliminate the hirsutism in women.

Although in general, bioidentical HRT reduces tumor risk, if a tumor does occur, DHEA can increase tumor growth in sex hormone-responsive tumors.  (breast, ovarian, uterine, prostate)  Therefore, your doctor should not recommend DHEA HRT if you have active forms of any of these cancers.

DHEA is indicated for anyone whose level is below the optimum level for their gender.  It is also recommended for practically everyone over age 40, except for those with the contraindications listed above.  It is expected to improve well-being and the symptoms of aging.