If you think mood swings, depression, hot flashes, night sweats, loss of libido and sleep disorders are problems only women have to deal with, you need to think again! Many middle-aged men have been reporting very similar conditions. Are these merely symptoms of the proverbial midlife crisis or are men actually experiencing a form of menopause?
DO MEN EXPERIENCE MENOPAUSE?
Unlike women, men do not experience a permanent physiological shutdown of the reproductive system, but with age a steady decline in testosterone levels is well documented. The term andropause or “male menopause” is sometimes used to describe a reduction in the bio-availability of testosterone related to ageing. On average, these hormonal changes in men occur gradually, with a reduction in levels of about 1% to 1.5% a year from the age of 30 onwards. By about the age of 70, the decrease in a man’s testosterone level can be as much as 50%. Because of the gradual nature of this change, the effects _ such as changes in sexual function and energy level or mood _ tend to be so subtle that they often go unnoticed for years.
WHAT ARE THE EARLY SYMPTOMS AND HOW DO I DETECT THEM?
Some men have a lower-than-normal testosterone levels without experiencing any symptoms. For others, low testosterone might cause changes in sexual function or sleep patterns, physical changes (including increased body fat, reduced muscle bulk, strength and stamina) or decreased bone density. Emotional changes such as irritability, lower motivation or self-confidence, fatigue and depression are also hallmarks of andropause. A blood test is the only way to diagnose a low testosterone level or a reduction in the bio-availability of testosterone. In a 40-year-old man, 500 nanogrammes of testosterone per decilitre of blood is the mean and anything below 300 nanogrammes is considered too low.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO IMPROVE TESTOSTERONE LEVELS?
You can’t boost your natural testosterone production, but you can work with your anti-ageing doctor to identify causes leading to your symptoms and treat any health issues that may be catalysing the process. Usually we’d first discuss your daily routine with you, so that we can suggest how you can incorporate healthier lifestyle choices into your daily diet and physical-activity routine. A healthy lifestyle will help you maintain your strength, energy and lean muscle mass. Regular physical activity can even improve your mood and promote better sleep. Working excessively, drinking too much alcohol, using illicit drugs or seeking thrills from risky activities contribute to lowering your testosterone levels, so these habits should be minimised.
IF LIFESTYLE CHANGES ARE NOT PUT INTO PRACTICE, WHAT TREATMENTS ARE AVAILABLE?
You could undergo testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) to get the testosterone back up to a normal level. This is the male equivalent of hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in women. Common ways to replace testosterone in men included injecting it every two to three weeks or taking it orally as prescribed. A hormone cream can also be applied to the inner thigh or arm which is then absorbed through the skin. Using a cream, you can adjust the dose easily and it works very rapidly. Within two or three weeks, the patient will notice a difference. There are also some herbal remedies _ such as supplements of vitamins C and E and zinc _ that can help increase testosterone production, But I’d still recommend you make lifestyle changes by exercising, consuming a healthier diet and eliminating alcohol to improve your overall health and alleviate the symptoms of low testosterone in the long run.
ARE THERE ANY WAYS TO SLOW DOWN ANDROPAUSE?
There is no way to stop testosterone levels from dropping, but there are a few things that might help slow down the process. Try and eat correctly, exercise regularly and stay active. Keep your social life busy, so you don’t get depressed. Depression doesn’t just come from work, it can also be caused by isolation and loneliness.