Menopause for Men?
It's a common joke for women to refer to the male "cycle" when the men in their lives act irritable or upset. And generally, the idea of a hormonal cycle for men has remained nothing more than sarcastic social commentary.
Perhaps not for long...
Men and women alike might be surprised to learn that men do in fact experience timed changes in their hormone levels, although the shifts are not nearly as dramatic as they are for women. However, similarly to women, men might experience symptoms like hot flashes, depression, or diminished libido.
"An examination and blood test from a doctor are the only sure ways to know if testosterone levels are low."
While experts hesitate to call this process menopause, a few of them have adopted the term "andropause" as a reference to the generic term androgen, which means any masculinity maintaining compound in a vertebrate.
The hormonal changes that happen for men begin around the age of 40, when testosterone levels start their gradual decline. At the rate of about one percent per year, and continuing with a steep level drop until about age 50, the testosterone decline might become evident around the age of 60. It is estimated that half of all men who reach their 80s have low testosterone levels.
For some men, the drop in testosterone means major changes. Others might not notice much of a difference. Symptoms of low testosterone can include:
- Reduced libido and fertility
- Fewer spontaneous erections
- Poor motivation, concentration, or memory
- Swollen/tender chest
- Loss of body hair
- Low energy
- Shrunken testicles
- Height loss
- Thinning bones
- Reduced muscle tone/more body fat
- Hot flashes
- Diminished self-confidence and performance
- Sleep difficulty
- Low blood cell count
Some symptoms that imply low testosterone might simply be due to aging or another condition. Liver disease, kidney failure, an overactive/underactive thyroid, depression, or medication side effects are just a few examples of problems that may be mistaken for low testosterone. An examination and blood test from a doctor are the only sure ways to know if testosterone levels are low.
A large difference between female menopause and the mid-life testosterone decline in men involves fertility. Female menopause marks the end of a woman's ability to reproduce, because her ovaries no longer produce eggs. The male testicles can make sperm that will fertilize eggs into the man's 80s or later, even in the case of reduced testosterone.
There is an idea that testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) is one way to deal with the seeming change many men experience. Yet, remembering the backlash against women's hormone replacement therapy (HRT) a few years back might make men think twice before altering their hormone levels.
The safer solution is to live a healthy lifestyle that can promote good health and a balanced testosterone level. Observing a varied and nutritious diet, staying active, supplementing with testosterone-balancing nutrients, and having good relationships with family, friends, and health care professionals are all ideal ways to support your health at any age.