Menopause, alternatively known as andropause (late-onset hypogonadism or androgen decline as well), is a stage in a man’s life marked by a decrease in testosterone levels. In some men, these changes may be subtle and manifest themselves over time, from as early as the age of 40 up to the age of 70.
What Is It Really?
The male hormone – testosterone – is the male sex hormone produced in the testicles, and is responsible for a man’s physical and emotional well-being. Dr Céline Guyomar, a Livi medical doctor, says that testosterone is responsible for producing sperm and red blood cells. It also stimulates sex drive, maintains muscle and bone strength, and regulates body fat distribution.’
Signs And Symptoms Of Male Menopause
Unlike women’s menopause, where females experience a complete halt in their hormone production, testosterone depletion is a slow and gradual process. Since not all men experience the same symptoms, there is still a debate on whether male menopause is a medical condition or not. The reduction in testosterone levels can also be attributed to stress levels, lifestyle, and food choices. For some, the symptoms may be mild, while for others, it may be quite evident, inevitably affecting their quality of life.
After the age of 30, the production of testosterone starts decreasing by 1-2% every year. Hence, the typical symptoms that are associated with lowered levels include:
- Hair loss (body and pubic region)
- Decreased sexual drive/low libido
- Erectile dysfunction or impaired sexual performance
- Low energy levels
- Increased body fat
- Demotivation and difficulty concentrating
- Decrease in spontaneous erections especially in the morning
- Tender or swollen breasts
- Enlarged prostrate
- Shrinking testes
- Loss of muscle mass or weakness
- Excessive sweating or hot flashes
- Insomnia and/or sleep apnea
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the most common symptoms of male menopause include low libido, erectile dysfunction, and poor morning erection.
Cause For Concerned?
Male menopause can justifiably be called a combination of mental, emotional, and physiological symptoms that can affect the overall quality of life.
Dr. Chandrika Kulkarni, Consultant Obstetrician Gynecologist and fertility specialist; Cloudnine Group of Hospitals says “testosterone decline in men is a slower process. The testes, unlike the ovaries, do not run out of the substance it needs to make testosterone.” (Source: Tribune India)
Reduced testosterone levels can be a major cause of bone damage and speed up hair loss and cause weight gain. Low testosterone levels may also be known to be associated with mood fluctuations, depressive episodes, irritability, and reduced concentration.
However, one should keep in mind that male menopause is a multi-faceted phase where testosterone levels can be affected by factors such as substance abuse or illnesses.
What Can Be Done?
Diagnosis can be a cumbersome process, as not all men are comfortable discussing the symptoms they are going through. However, it is prudent to come to terms with it and talk about it openly, at the outset.
A simple blood test is all it takes. Testosterone levels are the highest in the morning, so healthcare physicians recommend getting the test done then. The results can be reconfirmed by repeating the tests 2-3 times later in the day. A normal range of testosterone levels lies in the range of 300-1200 ng\dL. Your doctor may also suggest carrying out other tests such as DHEA, prolactin, luteinizing hormone, and estradiol to carry out a comparative analysis of how each hormone compares to the other. Men may even have to undergo a physical examination to confirm their symptoms.
Testosterone levels can be treated via both invasive and non-invasive methods. The treatment options below depends entirely on the cause of the hormonal imbalance and the symptoms that follow suit.
Hormone therapy: This includes the Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT), patches, injections or topical gels.
Lifestyle changes: Tweak your lifestyle to include fresh water, air, sunshine, sleep, and exercise…
Eat a healthy diet: Testosterone levels get a boost from zinc, Vitamin D, branch amino acids. Olive oil, which contains monosaturated fatty acids, is a wise choice while cooking food. Vitamin D and zinc-rich foods to include in your diet include salmon, spinach, eggs, nuts, beans, pumpkin and flaxseeds, figs, and cruciferous vegetables.
Maintain an active lifestyle: Regular exercise boosts mood and muscle. A tudy, resistance and strength training boost testosterone levels.
Catch your Zzzs: According to research, getting sleep for as low as 5 hours every day for a week decreased testosterone levels by 15%.
Avoid the devil’s drink: Excessive consumption of alcohol can greatly hamper the healthy functioning of the endocrine glands or the pituitary gland, both linked to testerone production.
Coping Mechanism: Take emotional and moral support from friends, family and support groups and mental health professionals.
In The End
Menopause is not something that just women suffer. Men should be equally aware and responsible for their internal health and listen to the cues that their bodies give them. It is vital to embark on a self-care journey and not let the aging process overwhelm you. It is equally important to recognise the problem and deal with it in a self compassionate and holistic way to ensure the easiest transition as possible in and out of this challenging time on a man’s life.