I bash hormones pretty hard in my newsletter, Second Opinion, because most of them are used incorrectly. One of my favorite hormones, though, is testosterone, the "male" hormone. And now, there's evidence it may protect against Alzheimer's.

Yes, you heard that right! In addition to protecting against osteoporosis, vascular disease, loss of muscle and more, testosterone appears to strongly protect your brain.

One ongoing study on 574 men in Baltimore has found that low levels of "free" testosterone are associated with a higher risk of Alzheimer's. A "free" hormone is one not tied up to blood proteins and is available for action at the target organ. The most prominent blood protein that ties us testosterone is called sex hormone binding globulin (SHBG). Once SHBG gets a hold of testosterone, it prevents any beneficial action.

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An Italian study found that SHBG was significantly elevated in men and women with Alzheimer's disease, but total testosterone was normal. An unwary doctor might measure your total testosterone, find it's in the healthy range, but miss the fact that in your case little of it is "free" or unbound. You would be at risk for Alzheimer's and more.

Older men suffer from declines in hormones just as women do. I believe testosterone to be a far safer and needed hormone, in general, than estrogen. I routinely measure both total and "free" testosterone in males with sexual dysfunction, diabetes, and any degenerative or circulatory disease.

The herb Urtica dioica (stinging nettles) in many male supplements (including Healthy Resolve's Advanced Prostate Formula -- 800-728-2288) modulates the activity of SHBG. Sometimes supplemental testosterone is needed, especially if total testosterone is low. It can be provided by your integrative physician as a cream. Studies show that testosterone works to improve cognition by its beneficial modulation of neurotransmitters, the chemicals nerve cells use to "talk" with each other. Women should be interested as well. Healthy ovaries continue to produce testosterone long into menopause. Too little can be a factor in osteoporosis, loss of libido, and cognitive performance. If you're having cognitive impairment, ask your integrative physician for a measurement of total and free testosterone.

Ref: "Two Studies Examine Relationship Between Alzheimer's Disease And Testosterone, " American Academy of Neurology, January 27, 2004.

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