Why is estrogen important for men? is not the kind of question men discuss at the gym or the golf course or around a poker table. Men are more concerned about their testosterone level, especially as men age beyond 40 and testosterone starts to decline naturally. Men are also concerned about having too much testosterone when they have prostate cancer and may need to have hormone therapy. But a proper balance among estrogen and testosterone is key to good prostate health and good heart health. Here are the answers to Why is estrogen important for men? and why you should strive to keep your estrogen level in a healthy balance with your testosterone level.
Estrogen plays an important role in men’s health. Too little estrogen can predispose men to osteoporosis and lead to bone fractures. Slightly elevated levels double a man’s risk of stroke and even higher incidence of coronary artery disease. Men with higher blood estrogen levels may be at higher risk for enlarged prostate or prostate cancer, especially if they have low free testosterone blood levels.
A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association measured the level of blood level of a type of estrogen, estradiol, in 501 men who had chronic heart failure. The men with the lowest estradiol levels were 317% more likely to die in the next following years compared to men with a balanced estradiol level. Men in the highest estradiol group were 133% more likely to die. This shows that, like Goldilocks, optimal health depends on hormone levels that are just right.
So how do men make estrogen? Men produce estrogen through an enzyme called aromatase, which transforms testosterone into estradiol. Estrogen can be made in the liver, brain, muscle, and fat cells. This is a concern because obesity contributes to the increased production of estrogen. Diabetics also tend to have a higher rate of estrogen. When men have too much aromatase activity, they can cause their testosterone to convert into estradiol, and this can cause depletion of their testosterone, causing low T. Symptoms of low T include decreased energy, decreased libido and erectile function, mood changes, muscle changes, increased body fat, thinning body hair, and more.
When men do not have enough aromatase, they may become estrogen deficient. And if men produce too little endogenous testosterone, then they will not have enough to convert into estrogen, making them have too little free testosterone and estradiol. Free testosterone is a form of testosterone that is biologically available to the body’s cell–receptor sites. Your doctor can test your free testosterone levels to get the most accurate assessment of your testosterone levels.
Getting Hormones in Balance
There are both natural ways and medical ways to balance your hormones. The supplement resveratrol has health benefits that may help with balancing estrogen. Certain foods, such as broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables, may also help with balancing hormones. Lifestyle also plays a role. Avoid excessive alcohol, which can increase estrogen production in men. Chemicals in plastics can disrupt proper hormone function, so look for plastic that is BPA free and don’t microwave food in plastic. Eat organic to avoid chemicals and additional hormones in your food. It is best to maintain a healthy weight and body mass ratio because body fat can lead to hormone imbalance.
Talk to your doctor about testing your hormone levels if you feel that your levels are off. Your doctor can order blood tests to determine if your free testosterone and estrogen/estradiol are out of balance and recommend the right treatment for you to protect your heart and prostate health and overall well-being. If you have further questions, don’t be afraid to ask your health care provider, “Why is estrogen important for men?”