Hormonal changes that occur as a result of aging are generally associated with women. In fact, most people immediately think of women when they hear the term menopause. However, the term “male menopause” is often used when referring to men who experience a decrease in the amount of testosterone circulating in their bodies due to aging. This condition in men is also known as andropause.
Andropause, or male menopause, is the term commonly used by many physicians to refer to hormonal changes that occur in men as a result of aging. It is also referred to as androgen deficiency, hypogonadism or testosterone deficiency. Andropause is a gradual decline in the production of testosterone in males that occurs over a period of many years. Symptoms may or may not accompany the hormonal decline.
It is normal for both men and women to experience hormonal changes as they age. There is a big difference, however, in the rate at which hormones change among men and women.
When women experience menopause, there is generally a dramatic plunge in the production of reproductive hormones that occurs very rapidly. Women have a very specific, well-defined time period in which reproductive hormone production is no longer produced. Because women experience a rapid drop in hormones during menopause, they generally experience a rapid end to ovulation and menstruation, which occurs over the course of 12 months on average. The symptoms that develop as a result of plummeting reproductive hormones, such as hot flashes, increased sweating, irritability and lack of energy will usually disappear just as suddenly as they developed.
For men, the male menopause experience has a much more gradual onset and a longer duration. The side effects of the reproductive hormone decline, such as sexual dysfunction, mood changes and decreased energy, can be very subtle, and may go undetected for several years. The decline of male reproductive hormone production is a much slower process because the testes do not suddenly stop producing testosterone in the same way that a woman’s ovaries stop producing hormones.
The level of testosterone present in the male body fluctuates and varies greatly among different men. Generally, as men age, the level of testosterone in their body declines, resulting in overall lower testosterone levels in older men. The decline in testosterone levels occurs gradually over time. The rate at which men experience testosterone loss averages at a 1 percent decline per year from the age of 30, with the levels being reduced by as much as 50 percent on average by the age of 70.
Because testosterone levels do not plummet rapidly, men may or may not experience symptoms of andropause, or they may not be as apparent as menopause symptoms. Andropause symptoms are more likely to develop in men as they age, although men in their 30s can experience low testosterone symptoms. Symptoms of low testosterone levels include:
Many of these symptoms may occur as a normal part of the aging process. Some of these symptoms can occur as a result of underlying medical conditions such as thyroid impairment or depression. Excessive alcohol use and medication can also cause many of these symptoms.
Before jumping into medications, try a more natural approach to treating symptoms associated with andropause. Be sure to eat a healthy diet and make daily exercise a part of your normal routine. Make healthy lifestyle choices that will help you to maintain lean muscle mass, keep your strength up and give you more energy. Good eating habits and regular exercise can also improve your sleep quality and prevent hormonal mood swings.
Some men look to herbal supplements to find relief from the symptoms associated with declining testosterone levels. Although they have not been proven effective for treatment of low testosterone, many men claim to see an improvement in their condition when using herbal supplements. Before using any herbal supplements, it is important to discuss them with your physician.
Testosterone replacement therapy can also be used both to improve symptoms associated with low testosterone and to restore any alterations in the body’s normal physiology such as improving bone mineral density, increasing strength and improving cognitive function.
The use of testosterone replacement therapy to treat low testosterone levels that occur as a result of the normal aging process is controversial. While some men show an improvement in symptoms associated with low testosterone, other men, particularly those of advanced age, do not clearly demonstrate any improvement.
There are also risks associated with testosterone replacement therapy, such as an elevated risk of developing prostate cancer. It you are suffering from male menopause and are considering the use of testosterone replacement therapy, speak with your doctor to learn more about the pros and cons of using this controversial treatment.