Male Menopause: Why It’s a Misnomer for Men Over 50
Men over 50 must deal with changes in their bodies just like women deal with changes in their bodies. However , calling what men over 50 go through menopause is incorrect.
Hormone changes are a natural part of aging for both men and women. However, unlike the more dramatic reproductive hormone plunge that occurs in women during menopause, sex hormone changes in men occur gradually — over a period of many years.
In fact, for men the changes begin much earlier in life than they do for women, usually around age 30. Beginning at about 30, men lose roughly one percent of their testosterone level every year. Conversely, in women, ovulation ends and hormone production plummets during a relatively short time.
And while for women the effects are so sudden that menopause is often referred to as “the change”, for men, changes in sexual function, energy level or mood tend to be subtle and might go unnoticed for years.
So how do we refer to so-called male menopause?
Many doctors use the term “andropause” to describe aging related hormone changes in men. Other terms for andropause include testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency of the aging male and late-onset hypogonadism.
Andropause onset is so subtle that it’s often difficult to recognize, and some men over 50 may see age-related testosterone drops with few outward signs. However, for others, low testosterone might cause:
- Sex drive changes. This could include erectile dysfunction, reduced sexual desire, fewer spontaneous erections, and infertility from low sperm counts. Also, the testes might become smaller as well.
- Physical changes. This includes increased body fat, reduced lean muscle mass, lower overall strength and endurance, less energy and mental drive and decreased bone density. Swollen or tender breasts (gynecomastia) and loss of body hair are possible. In some cases, men even experience hot flashes.
- Mental changes. Low testosterone can contribute to a decrease in motivation or self-confidence, including feeling sad or depressed, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things.
- Sleeping pattern changes. Low testosterone often causes sleep disturbances, such as insomnia, or increased sleepiness.
Adding to the difficulty of interpreting andropause is that some of these signs and symptoms are a normal part of aging and can be caused by various underlying factors, including medication side effects, thyroid problems, depression and excessive alcohol use.
A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level or a reduction in the bioavailability of testosterone.
If you suspect that you have a low testosterone level, consult your doctor. He or she can evaluate possible causes for your signs and symptoms and explain treatment options.
As is usually the case, making healthy lifestyle choices is your first and best defense against progressive andropause. Eating a healthy diet and including physical activity in your daily routine can make a difference.
Although not conclusive, some studies suggest that resistance training, specifically compound moves such as squats, deadlifts and bench presses, can increase levels of free testosterone in older men.
Healthy lifestyle choices will help you maintain your strength, energy and lean muscle mass. Regular physical activity can even improve your mood and promote better sleep.
Additionally, hormone replacement therapy provides an option for many men with low testosterone levels. Hormone replacement therapy in older men is still under study as a treatment for andropause. If you believe that you’re seeing signs of andropause, see your doctor to discuss the best options for you.
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