So-called 'manly hormones' critical for women's health too

If you're past a certain age, odds are you need a hormone boost -- but it's not always the ones you're thinking of. And ladies, if you're not getting the testosterone you need, you could face serious -- and even potentially deadly --health risks.

That's right... testosterone!

I know it's often called the "male hormone" but it's time to toss that label in the garbage where it belongs, because in small doses testosterone is critical for women's health too. Older women in particular often fall short.

That shortage could lead to disastrous consequences, as testosterone plays a key role in blood flow. And now, the latest research allows us to see what happens in real time as those hormone levels fall.

This study focused on mice, one set of females that were perfectly normal and a second set bred to lack an androgen receptor. Because of that lack of an androgen receptor, these mice were biologically unable to get the testosterone they needed naturally.

That second set of testosterone-starved mice gained weight and became obese. They had higher levels of fats in the blood. And most damaging of all, they quickly developed atherosclerosis.

That's the classic hardening of the arteries, and is often a precursor to heart attack and stroke.

Once the deficient mice were given testosterone, however, all of those potentially dangerous conditions began to reverse, leading researchers to conclude that maybe it's time to toss the overly simplistic notion of "male" and "female" hormones.

No kidding! I've been saying this all along, which is why I routinely include testosterone in the hormone tests I run on women.

It works the other way, too -- some men need small doses of estrogen, but that's a story for another day. Today, let's focus on testosterone, because along with blood flow and cardiovascular health, men and women alike need it for strength, mood, memory, energy and of course sexual health.

Not every older lady is low in testosterone, of course, and even if you fall short supplementation may not be necessary as there are natural options that can help your body produce what it needs.

Work closely with a holistic medical doctor who can check all your hormone levels, help find the best way to replace what you're missing, and monitor your progress to ensure you don't get too much of any of them (this is especially important for women and testosterone; too much can put hair where you don't want it).