The Pause that Concerns: Men and Life Changes

As women approach a certain age, they enter a new phase during which estrogen levels drop and menstrual cycles cease. Known as menopause, this “change of life”, as it is commonly known, signals the end of a woman’s child-bearing years.

While humorous references abound concerning a male version of menopause, the truth is that men also experience hormonal and sexual function changes as they age. The proper name for this phase is andropause, and while comparisons continue to be made to menopause, there are some significant differences, particularly with regard to a man’s ability to conceive a child.

During menopause, for instance, women stop ovulating, or producing eggs. Conversely, a man’s body never stops creating sperm. What does occur is a gradual reduction in a man’s testosterone levels – a hormonal change that’s typically not as intense as often happens in women.

However, the depressed mood or reduced level of a feeling of well-being that typify menopause are often associated with andropause, a Greek compound term that means human male (“andras”) and a cessation (“pause”).

Still, a 2013 study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism noted that, in contrast to the predictable timing of the effects of menopause, “andropause is characterized by insidious onset and slow progression”. The study went on to note that testosterone levels in men decrease at the rate of roughly 1% per year (typically after the age of 30), though this can vary depending on lifestyle choices, nutritional factors, and obesity parameters.

In short, as men age, they lose testosterone, a condition colloquially known as “Low T”. Muscle mass tends to decrease, as well, and sexual function can become impaired. Testosterone replacement therapy can help to counteract some of these conditions, even in older men.

In fact, short-term controlled studies, such as one published in the Journal of Gerontology, have suggested that healthy older men might benefit from so-called “T therapy” in the areas of libido, muscle strength, and specific areas of cognitive function.

It’s important to note, though, that a 2015 ruling by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) determined that many companies sold testosterone supplements that did not contain the necessary components and which could also increase the risk of developing cardiovascular problems and prostate cancer. As a result, it’s critical to consult with your physician before embarking on any sort of drug or vitamin replacement therapy designed to address issues related to Low T.

Given that testosterone levels decrease at what might be considered barely perceptible rates, though, and that in general, changes brought on by andropause tend to creep up on men, what are some of the signs that one’s testosterone levels are dropping? And what steps can men take, short of drugs or supplements, to help themselves?

First, according to the Mayo Clinic, recognizable symptoms could include the following:

·       Disruptions to sleep patterns: Increased sleepiness or insomnia could be a sign of Low T

·       Changes in sexual function: A man’s testes could reduce in size, and a man might experience lower sex drive, fewer occurrences of spontaneous erections, and even erectile dysfunction

·       Emotional modulations: Low T is sometimes accompanied by a drop in self-confidence or motivation. Men can also experience trouble concentrating or with memory. Depression and sadness could be other telltale factors

·       Physical changes: Along with a reduction in muscle mass, men could notice an increase in body fat as well as decreased bone density. In rare cases, men might also experience hot flashes

Second, Medical News Today lists a few potential treatment areas for men with Low T:

·       An obese man should receive counseling for an exercise routine as well as for weight management, including a nutrition plan

·       Those with cardiovascular disease or diabetes should seek appropriate care for these underlying conditions. It’s possible that greater control of blood glucose levels could help to cut back the effects of some symptoms of Low T

·       Men suffering from anxiety or depression should be referred to an appropriate mental health professional, who might prescribe psychotherapy, antidepressant medications, or a mixture of both

·       Physicians should also pursue symptoms such as fatigue or erectile dysfunction to learn whether they are related to an underlying condition; this will most likely require a series of scans and blood tests

While andropause is clearly different than its distaff counterpart, men have options to treat their condition that could help to strengthen their fertility profiles.

The Legacy man, of course, will also take proactive steps to secure his assets before, and even if, the problems of Low T manifest themselves.