Health

“ONE THING THAT COMES TO OUR MIND WHEN IT COMES TO THE MALE MENOPAUSE: IS IT REAL? OR IS IT JUST FAN­TASY?”

DA MAN - - Contents -

Is there such a thing as male menopause? We ex­plore the symp­toms of this con­di­tion, as well as sup­port and treat­ment op­tions that can help any of us cope and deal with the on­set of an­dropause

Ac­knowl­edged by health pro­fes­sion­als as a nat­u­ral stage in a man’s life, an­dropause—also known as the male menopause—is a col­lec­tion of symp­toms at­trib­uted to a grad­ual de­cline in testosterone lev­els. Yes, it seems that it is not only women who suf­fer the ef­fects of chang­ing hor­mones due to ag­ing, as doc­tors around the world have long no­ticed men re­port­ing some of the same symp­toms ex­pe­ri­enced by women at the on­set of per­i­menopause and menopause.

Now, the fe­male menopause ba­si­cally marks the end of a woman’s re­pro­duc­tive years. But men, too, may ex­pe­ri­ence changes in their bod­ies as they reach their late for­ties and early fifties. So, there is a long-stand­ing anx­i­ety among the pop­u­lace about what to ex­pect at that age and whether males will go through some­thing like the fe­male menopause.

To be fair, there is still some de­bate—even within the med­i­cal com­mu­nity—of what re­ally con­sti­tutes menopause, es­pe­cially for men. The prob­lem of defin­ing the male menopause is com­pounded by how it is some­times sim­ply re­ferred to as a de­cline in testosterone in ag­ing males. And some doc­tors sim­ply call it “low testosterone” and end their di­ag­no­sis there.

Truth be told, menopause in women is much eas­ier to de­fine: It hap­pens when the pro­duc­tion of re­pro­duc­tive hor­mones stops com­pletely. In men, the de­cline in testosterone is a much slower process and can also oc­cur as an ef­fect of other med­i­cal con­di­tions such as di­a­betes. The over­all ef­fect, how­ever, has been well-ob­served and in­cludes ev­ery­thing from in­creased fa­tigue, sex­ual prob­lems (a re­duc­tion in li­bido or sex drive and erec­tile dys­func­tion), weight gain as well as emo­tional symp­toms which may be sim­i­lar to the changes ex­pe­ri­enced by women.

THE IM­POR­TANCE OF TESTOSTERONE

If there’s one thing that every­body can agree on, it’s that testosterone is an es­sen­tial hor­mone for life. Made nat­u­rally by the body, it plays an im­por­tant role in the growth of male re­pro­duc­tive or­gans such as the testes and the prostate gland. It’s also re­spon­si­ble for lean, healthy mus­cle mass, the growth of body hair, main­tain­ing bone den­sity, cul­ti­vat­ing men­tal alert­ness and en­sur­ing a pow­er­ful im­mune sys­tem.

There are also sev­eral lesser-known ben­e­fits of testosterone, in­clud­ing the preven­tion of os­teo­poro­sis and main­tain­ing the over­all health of the heart. Add to that fat dis­tri­bu­tion and pro­duc­tion of red blood cells. That’s why testosterone lev­els also dic­tate your over­all fit­ness level: When the body has healthy lev­els of testosterone you feel strong and when it’s is low, you feel weak

Fi­nally, on top of all that, testosterone is the driv­ing force be­hind a man’s sex drive and is crit­i­cal for sperm pro­duc­tion. It is, put sim­ply, the most im­por­tant male hor­mone.

SIGNS OF LOW TESTOSTERONE

One of the most no­tice­able symp­toms of low testosterone is an in­crease in body fat, which be­comes hard to get rid of no mat­ter how hard you ex­er­cise. Some­times, this also means hav­ing lit­tle to no mus­cle def­i­ni­tion as mus­cle strength drops dra­mat­i­cally. Ac­tiv­i­ties that were once easy now be­come re­ally dif­fi­cult, ex­haust­ing while reg­u­lar ex­er­cise wears you out far be­yond the way it usu­ally does.

Along with that, reg­u­lar men­tal fa­tigue might pop up as well, as though the mind re­fuses to func­tion prop­erly. Con­cen­tra­tion be­comes dif­fi­cult and mem­ory fades. There is also a change in sex drive: Spon­ta­neous erec­tions don’t hap­pen as of­ten, the urge to have sex de­clines rapidly and sperm count drops. There’s a loss of mo­ti­va­tion, as though noth­ing mat­ters. It’s more than likely that self-con­fi­dence will drop, too.

If any­thing, this bleak list of symp­toms re­in­force the no­tion that testosterone is crit­i­cal for men.

HOW IS AN­DROPAUSE DI­AG­NOSED?

First of all, the first step to take when an­dropause be­comes a con­cern is to con­sult with a doc­tor. Of course, any di­ag­no­sis will be based on a

“IN MEN, THE DE­CLINE IN TESTOSTERONE IS A MUCH SLOWER PROCESS AND CAN ALSO OC­CUR AS AN EF­FECT OF OTHER MED­I­CAL CON­DI­TIONS”

very thor­ough re­view of your health and list of symp­toms. A blood test will be done to get a de­tailed re­view of your testosterone lev­els and con­nected hor­mone mea­sures. There will also be fur­ther tests cov­er­ing a wider ar­ray of health mea­sures such as prostate in­flam­ma­tion, liver and kid­ney func­tion, red and white blood cell count and blood fat. Then, af­ter ev­ery­thing has been sorted out, your doc­tor will re­view your symp­toms, your med­i­cal his­tory and will also con­duct a phys­i­cal ex­am­i­na­tion. Once the re­sult is out, what fol­lows is putting to­gether a plan with your doc­tor to ad­dress any health is­sues that have been dis­cov­ered. In a way, this is pretty much the same thing that would—and should— be done for any pos­si­ble health prob­lem.

TREAT­MENT OP­TIONS

For­tu­nately, a wide range of an­dropause treat­ment strate­gies are avail­able to help men deal with the un­pleas­ant symp­toms of the phase. The most pop­u­lar op­tion are testosterone prepa­ra­tions in­clud­ing hor­mone in­jec­tions, testosterone patches (an­dro­derm), testosterone gels (an­dro­gel) and testosterone pel­lets (testopel).

A word of warn­ing, how­ever: While many of the po­ten­tial ad­verse ef­fects of testosterone are uni­ver­sal for all of the prepa­ra­tions, dif­fer­ent for­mu­la­tions some­times pro­vide dif­fer­ent ben­e­fits and side ef­fects. Testosterone re­place­ment ther­apy has been linked to heart disease and prostate prob­lems. Other ex­perts also em­pha­size that the ben­e­fits and risks of long-term testosterone

ther­apy are un­known. Un­for­tu­nately, large clin­i­cal tri­als for these kinds of treat­ments have not been done yet.

Just like hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy in women, testosterone re­place­ment ther­apy comes with a laun­dry list of po­ten­tial risks and side ef­fects. Re­ports sug­gest that re­plac­ing testosterone may worsen prostate can­cer. If you are con­sid­er­ing hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy, talk to a doc­tor to learn more about its pros and cons. Your doc­tor may also rec­om­mend cer­tain life­style changes to help with some symp­toms of male menopause.

For al­ter­na­tives, the male menopause can be treated through a va­ri­ety of modal­i­ties in­clud­ing:

• Life­style Changes

It’s pos­si­ble that the symp­toms you’re ex­pe­ri­enc­ing can be re­lieved through sim­ple life­style changes. Al­though it’s al­ways ad­vis­able to live a life­style that in­cludes fresh air, wa­ter, sun­shine, ex­er­cise, and sleep, your life­style choices be­come even more im­por­tant when health is­sues arise. On this note, it can be quite help­ful to en­list the guid­ance of a func­tional medicine prac­ti­tioner to see if any spe­cific changes can or should be made, or if there are other treat­ment op­tions that you might want to con­sider de­pend­ing on your spe­cific con­di­tion.

• In­crease Ex­er­cise

By in­creas­ing your ac­tiv­ity lev­els, your body will get the mes­sage that it needs to pro­duce more hor­mones to main­tain mus­cle and bone mass. Ex­er­cise has also been proven to re­duce stress. Stress in­creases your cor­ti­sol lev­els which neg­a­tively im­pacts sex hor­mone pro­duc­tion. Don’t overdo it, how­ever, as some forms of ex­er­cise can ac­tu­ally be counter pro­duc­tive. Con­tin­ual en­durance train­ing has been linked with lower testosterone lev­els.

• Eat Healthy

When it comes to the di­etary ap­proach to deal­ing with an­dropause symp­toms, it’s not just about eat­ing fruits and veg­eta­bles. There are, in fact, a num­ber of spe­cific food items that en­cour­age the pro­duc­tion of spe­cific hor­mones. Key nu­tri­ents that pro­mote healthy testosterone lev­els are vi­ta­min D and zinc.

• Re­lax­ation Ther­apy

Re­lax­ation isn’t only about peace of mind; it’s a process that de­creases the ef­fects of stress on your mind and body. Re­lax­ation ther­apy can def­i­nitely help you cope with the symp­toms of an­dropause. To get the most of it, use re­lax­ation tech­niques along with other pos­i­tive cop­ing meth­ods, such as think­ing pos­i­tively, find­ing hu­mor, prob­lem­solv­ing, man­ag­ing time, ex­er­cis­ing, get­ting enough sleep and reach­ing out to sup­port­ive fam­ily and friends.

• Psy­chother­a­peu­tic Sup­port

Psy­chother­apy (some­times called “talk ther­apy”) re­fers to a va­ri­ety of treat­ment tech­niques that aim to help a per­son iden­tify and change trou­bling emo­tions, thoughts and be­hav­ior. It can be an al­ter­na­tive to med­i­ca­tion, but is best used in con­junc­tion with other treat­ment op­tions as part of a com­pre­hen­sive so­lu­tion.

• Cou­ples and Fam­ily Ther­apy

Ob­vi­ously, the on­set of an­dropause, can be trau­matic to both men and their families. It is not the kind of sub­ject that is of­ten brought up in con­ver­sa­tion among men. Most men are eas­ily em­bar­rassed by these symp­toms and, when asked by a spouse or sig­nif­i­cant other, will of­ten de­flect the ques­tions with neb­u­lous com­ments about stress or sim­ply a need to gather one’s thoughts. Or even the clas­sic “it’s not you, it’s me.” It needs to be pointed out, how­ever, that in the case of the male menopause, the truth will set you free.

fI­nAL ThoughTs

Like most hor­mone-re­lated con­di­tions, the male menopause does not af­fect all men the same way. As a gen­eral rule, most men will not feel the same in­ten­sity of symp­toms that might plague oth­ers. On the other hand, al­though the sever­ity of these an­dropause symp­toms may vary, the in­evitabil­ity of ag­ing and the de­cline of youth will have its im­pact on all men.

All that be­ing said, the term “male menopause” or “an­dropause” still rep­re­sents a set of symp­toms that is not as well-de­fined as it should be. As the symp­toms gen­er­ally as­so­ci­ated with the male menopause are mainly caused by low testosterone, a wide range of dis­eases, men­tal health is­sues, obe­sity and other life­style com­po­nents can be­come un­der­ly­ing fac­tors that might hin­der a def­i­nite di­ag­no­sis.

How­ever, stud­ies have shown that men are of­ten re­luc­tant to ad­mit, even to them­selves, when they need help deal­ing with menopause­like symp­toms, even as the sub­tle changes due to hor­mone de­cline be­come read­ily ap­par­ent. Fur­ther com­pound­ing the prob­lem is ev­i­dence which sug­gests that testosterone de­fi­ciency has been over-di­ag­nosed in age­ing men. Not only that, the symp­toms of testosterone de­fi­ciency may oc­cur along­side other health con­di­tions and of­ten oc­cur in age­ing men who do not have testosterone de­fi­ciency. Thus, a di­ag­no­sis can­not be made on ev­i­dence of clin­i­cal symp­toms alone and must in­volve lab-work. Fi­nally, de­ter­min­ing what con­sti­tutes nor­mal testosterone lev­els is a huge prob­lem in its own right.

All that be­ing said, one of the ma­jor hur­dles in fac­ing the male menopause comes from within. It’s not easy to grace­fully tran­si­tion from early adult­hood to ma­tu­rity, to change one’s per­cep­tion of in­vin­ci­bil­ity as age bring vul­ner­a­bil­ity. For­tu­nately, we do not need to fear all this. We still have con­trol over it and with the right in­for­ma­tion and sup­port, the male menopause be­comes man­age­able. And as al­ways, the sooner we reach out for help and sup­port, the bet­ter off we will be.

“a blood test wIll be done to get a de­taIled re­vIew of your testosterone lev­els and con­nected hor­mone mea­sures. there wIll also be fur­ther tests cov­er­Ing a wIder ar­ray of health mea­sures such as prostate In­flam­ma­tIon, lIver and kId­ney func­tIon, red and whIte blood cell count and blood fat.”

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