Learning About the Effects of Andropause
A vast majority of women experience menopause at some point in their lives, but what about men? Men do not go through the dramatic changes of menopause, though there is speculation of an equivalent health condition called andropause. While andropause is not well defined as a condition, decreased testosterone over time can solicit changes in some males.
What Is Andropause?
Andropause is also referred to as the male menopause. Andropause is a testosterone deficiency syndrome. As men age, they go through sex hormone changes, albeit more gradually than women (menopause has a defining starting point at the end of a female reproductive cycle). Over a period of several years, production of testosterone and other hormones decline as a result of aging. Andropause symptoms are the result of a gradual decline in testosterone, which makes it difficult to attribute specific symptoms to the condition.
Low Testosterone and Aging
Testosterone levels vary greatly among men. Low testosterone, or low-T, does not occur in all males, but generally older men have lower testosterone levels than younger men. On average, testosterone levels gradually decline about 1% per year after the age of 30. Approximately 40% of men aged 40 or older experience symptoms due to lower testosterone. A blood test is the only way to diagnose low-T.
There are several symptoms associated with andropause, however, some may be the result of other conditions such as stress or medication side effects. Andropause symptoms may include:
- Reduced sexual desire
- Difficulty in attaining and sustaining an erection
- Changes in sleep, either insomnia or increased sleepiness
- Physical changes such as increased body fat, reduced muscle, decreased bone density, swollen/tender breasts, smaller testes and loss of body hair
- Emotional changes which may encompass decreased motivation, feelings of sadness or depression, trouble concentrating, mood swings, increased irritability, and memory issues
- Levels of fatigue or lethargy
- Hot flashes (this is a rare symptom)
Andropause is usually the result of aging. As a man reaches a more advanced age, the organs that produce sex cells also get older and lose their function. A biproduct of getting older is that body parts and hormone production slows down and the output is not as great as it once was. After a man reaches 30, testosterone levels begin to decrease. Andropause symptoms tend to occur in older males with heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
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Andropause Risk Factors
Aging happens to all of us, but there are some lifestyles that are more at risk of andropause than others. Risk factors include:
- Lack of exercise
- Alcohol consumption
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor diet
Andropause Treatment Options
Doctors are not likely to diagnose andropause; in all likelihood, they will look at your symptoms and figure out a plan to relieve what ails you. Your symptoms may be the result of lifestyle factors, underlying diseases, or andropause. Low-T can occur in men of any age. If there are not any signs or symptoms, treatment is not required.
While you cannot boost your natural testosterone production, there are some options to help you deal with andropause symptoms:
- Take a look and alter your lifestyle choices. Simple changes like implementing a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity every day can help you with some of your symptoms. A healthy lifestyle helps maintain strength, energy, lean muscle mass, and supports immunity to other diseases. Exercise can also improve mood or lead to a better night’s sleep.
- Talk to your doctor. If depression is one of your symptoms, talk to your doctor as they may prescribe medication or refer you to a specialist who can dive a little deeper into this particular symptom.
- Testosterone and vitamin supplements are available. With that being said, any herbal supplements should be run by your doctor before you start taking them. These supplements have not been proven safe and effective for aging-related testosterone and may actually increase your risk of developing prostate cancer or cardiovascular issues.
- Testosterone replacement therapy. This is controversial, though it may help relieve symptoms for some men. For others it may increase the risk of heart attack, prostate cancer, create blockage in the urinary tract, or other health problems.
Coping Options for People Who Experience Andropause
As the symptoms of andropause progress over time, they may eventually reach a point where they disrupt daily life. There are a few options to help you manage your andropause.
Firstly, talk to a healthcare professional. It may be your family doctor, a counselor, or another specialist who helps you get your symptoms under control. They can also connect you with valuable resources such as support groups or healthcare programs. Your doctor may then recommend moderate your alcohol consumption. Alcohol lowers testosterone levels in the blood and low-T levels can affect your sex drive and erectile function.
Another option for coping with adropause is getting more sleep. If you are not getting enough REM sleep, your body may produce less testosterone. This goes hand-in-hand with staying active. If you get in 30 minutes or more of physical activity each day, it will naturally encourage your body to produce testosterone.
Also, make sure to avoid stress. Research shows that stress releases cortisol and this hormone reduces testosterone production. If you cannot avoid stressful triggers, find ways to minimize stress like meditation or yoga.
Lastly, it is recommended to upgrade your diet. Many of our health issues come back to food. The proportion of fats, sugars and proteins in your diet affects testosterone levels. Get enough nutrients by eating food with zinc, omega 3, vitamin D and calcium. Ditch the junk food, caffeine and bad fats to start feeling better overall.
Andropause may creep up on you and the symptoms may develop so gradually you do not realize. Check in with yourself from time to time and if you have any unexplained symptoms, do not wait for them to get worse. Implement some coping strategies and get the opinion from a doctor.